Equal Pay Act 1970

Site updated on February 17, 2020

Equal Pay Act 1970/Equality Act 2010

Employers should pay men and women on the same basic terms, providing the work they do is broadly similar, or rated as equivalent (under a job evaluation scheme, for example). 

You do not have to be doing the same job as the person you are comparing with.

Equal Pay laws are an extension of Sex Discrimination in a way. You can only use the Equal Pay Act when your pay is below that of someone of the opposite sex. You cannot use this law if you are unhappy with your pay when compared to someone of the same sex. This would have to be taken up with your Employer as a grievance.

Groups of people can use the Equal Pay laws, where one group is mainly men and the other group is mainly women. So, for example, hospital porters (usually male) could be used by ward cleaners (mainly female) as a comparison on pay rates.

For help with this contact our Advice Line.

If there are pay differences, these may not be due to sex – there may be a bonus for length of service, or performance-related pay which explain differentials. In other words your Employer may be able to defend the pay difference by stating that it has nothing to do with the sex of the workers involved. Start by talking to your Employer or your Representative. If you need further help contact  our Advice Line  

The law basically requires employers to pay men and women on the same terms where a woman can claim equal pay as a man (or vice versa) in the following situations:

  1. The woman is employed on similar work with a man in the same employment; or
  2. Where the woman is employed on work that is rated as equivalent with that of a man in the same employment; or
  3. Where the work is classed as being of equal value.

The Act defines “similar work” as situations where the woman’s work is of the same or of broadly similar nature to that of a man. The man must be employed by the same company or at the same establishment by an associated employer. The comparable man could also be employed at another establishment where common terms and conditions apply within the same employer. This is more likely to succeed where the terms of employment of both employees are agreed by the same body – a Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) or similar

If employers have jobs that are similar, or rated as equivalent under a job evaluation scheme, any differences in pay between men and women must be justified by your employer. If the difference in pay is down to a reason not contacted with gender, then there is a possible defence.

The Act covers all workers. It does not matter how long you have been employed, or whether you work on a part time – even a casual basis or through an Agency. Only self employed contractors are excluded from this right.

A complaint can be made to an Employment Tribunal and an award can be made equal to the difference in pay between the claimant and the person she is comparing herself with. Equal pay cases are often complicated and you should seek professional advice before starting a claim.

Equal Pay claims can be difficult to resolve. You have 6 months to take up an equal pay complaint to Tribunal, unlike most other claims which have to made within 3 months. Back pay can go back as much as 6 years.

In certain situations, if you are an ex-employee and you wish to make an equal pay claim against a previous employer, you may be able to make a claim in the civil courts. In this situation, you have up to 6 years to make a claim.

You should get professional legal advice if this is the case.

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