It is over 50 years since sewing machinists at Ford’s Dagenham plant halted production, walked out and changed the lives of working women. The machinists were informed their jobs were considered ‘less skilled’, than men. That inequality was reflected in pay and women were receiving 15% less than the rate given to men, giving rise to an equal pay dispute.
Now the law protects women but equal pay disputes continue. From actors to sportspeople to BBC presenters, equal pay disputes have dominated the news in recent times. Since April 2018, all UK companies with more than 250 employees are legally required to publish their gender pay gap data.
How can an employee succeed with an equal pay claim?
To bring a claim under the equal pay provisions it is important to demonstrate that a colleague of the opposite sex is earning more, while carrying out a similar (or comparable) job. It is not sufficient for a hypothetical comparator to be used. The comparator must be:
What is a comparable job?
A comparator must be someone who is either doing:
This applies where the work is of the same or a broadly similar nature. Any differences must be relatively unimportant and the actual tasks that are carried out must be compared.
Work rated as equivalent
This applies where a study or job evaluation scheme rates certain jobs as being equivalent according to different headings.
Work of equal value
This applies where the effort, skill and demand required of people undertaking different jobs is the same.
How can an employer defend an equal pay claim?
An employer can defend a claim if they can prove that any difference is due to a genuine material factor other than sex.
To defend a claim the employer must show a “material difference” between the individual and the comparator. A material difference could be related to personal characteristics or other extraneous factors.