Why Is Equal Pay For Equal Work Still An Issue For Women In 2018?

Portrait of a woman the laptop, looking at screen of mobile

The first full week in February marked a major milestone in the history of Women’s Rights.  The 6th February 2018 saw the marking of 100 years since certain women were granted the right to vote.  All men over 21 years were enfranchised on the same day.

Only women over 30 who owned property or who were married to a man who did, could vote. Full women’s suffrage was not achieved for another ten years; however, the permitting of 8.5 million new female members of the electorate to take part in voting was a massive step forward after an 86-year fight.  Mary Smith presented the first women’s suffrage petition to Parliament in 1832.  In the same year, the Great Reform Act confirmed the exclusion of women from the vote.

However, at the same time that women are celebrating enfranchisement, it was announced that supermarket giant, Tesco, is facing Britain’s largest ever equal pay claim, totalling over £4 billion.

If the legal challenge demanding that women who worked in the chain’s warehouses receive pay parity with men is successful, each claimant could receive up to £20,000 each in back pay.

Female workers in the warehouses claim they earn as much as £3 per hour less than their male equivalents.

Asda and Sainsbury’s are also working their way through equal pay claims.

What is the difference between the gender pay gap and equal pay?

According to the definition provided by Acas, “The gender pay gap differs from equal pay as it is concerned with the differences in the average pay between men and women over a period of time no matter what their role is. Equal pay deals with the pay differences between men and women who carry out the same or similar jobs”.

Recent facts about the gender pay gap

In January 2018, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released a paper documenting the current status of the gender pay gap.  Some of the main findings of the research were[1]:

The Equality Act 2010 and equal pay

Many readers may be wondering how it is possible that equal pay for equal work has still not been achieved in some sectors, despite the Equal Pay Act being past nearly 50 years ago.  The Equality Act 2010 superseded this landmark piece of legislation.  Under the 2010 Act, an employer cannot discriminate on the grounds a person possesses one of nine protected characteristics.

These characteristics are:

The law on equal pay is set out in the ‘equality of terms’ provisions of the Equality Act 2010 (the Act).  Under the Act, equal pay must be given for equal work.  A sex equality clause is implied into all employment contracts, and a woman’s employment terms must be no less favourable than a man’s.

The ‘equality of terms’ provisions of the Act cover all aspects of the contractual pay and benefits package, including:

In what circumstances can a woman claim equal pay?

A woman can claim equal pay with a man working:

In addition, under European law, a woman can claim equal pay to a man where, although they are not in the same job, a nationwide collective agreement or a national scheme means the difference in pay can be rectified through a single source.

How can a woman discover if she is being paid less than a man doing the same job?

In Great Britain (but not Northern Ireland), any pay confidentiality clauses are overridden if inequality on any of the protected characteristics grounds is suspected.  You can, therefore, find out directly from a colleague if they are being paid more than you.

If you discover you are being paid less than a male colleague who is doing the same job as you, your first step should be to write to your employer or HR director, stating you believe there is a difference in the amount you are being paid and ask them to explain the disparity.

If the matter cannot be resolved informally or through the company’s grievance procedure, you may be able to bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal under the Equality Act 2010.  A threat of such action may result in the matter being quickly resolved, as, since October 2014, employers who lose equal pay claims can be forced to conduct an equal pay audit and publish the results.

Gender pay gap reporting

To increase pay transparency and encourage employers to take more action to address pay inequality, in 2017 legislation came into force which requires employers with 250 or more employees to report gender pay gap information.

Figures must be published by April 2018.  By January 2018, 527 firms had released their information[2].

Concluding comments

Despite the passing of 100 years, there still many areas where women remain unequal to me.  Pay is one, and as the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns have shown, women still face unacceptable levels of harassment in the workforce.

However, change is happening, and discrimination on any grounds is becoming increasingly unacceptable.

Perhaps in another century, our daughters will be writing a different story from today’s post.

Hart Reade Solicitors are a full-service law firm with offices in Eastbourne, Hailsham, Polegate and Meads.  We hold a both a Lexcel and Conveyancing Quality Accreditation from the Law Society of England and Wales.  To make an appointment with one of our employment law solicitors, please phone our office on 01323 727 321.

Please note, this article does not constitute legal advice.

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/articles/understandingthegenderpaygapintheuk/2018-01-17

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42580194