Let’s get one thing crystal clear.
It is against the law to pay men and women different rates for doing the same job.
The Equality Act of 2010 says this: “Men and women, whether in full-time or part-time employment should not be treated less favourably in relation to pay, benefits and terms and conditions where they are doing equal work.”
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Equal pay is the right for men and women to be paid the same for the same, or equivalent, work or work of equal value.
It’s an aspect of UK sex discrimination law which has been in force for over 40 years. Quite simply, it means that where men and women are not receiving equal pay, the employer must prove that the reason isn’t gender-related.
The law gives a woman the right to be paid the same as a man (and vice-versa) for
•like work - two employees who are doing the same or broadly similar roles, or
•work rated as equivalent by analytical job evaluation study – these could be totally different jobs which have been given the same rating as the result of an analytical job evaluation, or
•work of equal value - when there are two jobs that are very different, but the employee claims that they require a similar level of skill and ability. For example, a female cook comparing her work to that of painters, insulation engineers and joiners who work for the same organisation.
And employers cannot forbid their staff from discussing their pay as a result of the 2010 Act.
Any pay secrecy clauses in a contract of employment are unenforceable, and if an employee suffers any detriment from discussing their pay, this will be unlawful.
However, this only applies to discussing pay within the organisation. An employer can require employees to keep their pay confidential from outside bodies, such as a competitor organisation.
Alongside equality of pay, the gender pay gap has been hitting the headlines in the last few months – most notably at the BBC.
It’s important to remember that the gender pay gap is not the same as pay discrimination or equal pay. The gender pay gap is calculated by taking all employees in an organisation and comparing the average pay between men and women.
That means it’s possible for an employer which treats its women fairly and equally in terms of pay to have a large gender pay gap, and for an organisation which treats its female workers unfairly to have a small gap.
Gender pay gap reporting was introduced in the UK on 6 April 2017 when the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 came into force. They require private and voluntary sector employers with 250 or more employees to publish results of their gender pay gap analysis on their website by 4 April 2018. This will include the:
•median gender pay gap figures
•mean gender pay gap figures
•gender pay gaps for any bonuses paid out during the year
•signed statement that the information is accurate.
The results must remain on the website for at least three years and the analysis results must be uploaded to the Government’s reporting website. Employers may choose to add explanatory comments to help the public and workers understand the results, especially if a significant gender pay gap is revealed.
Last month, official research by the Office for National Statistics found the gender pay gap for full-time workers to be entirely in men’s favour for all occupations.
And while the gap was relatively small at younger ages, the bad news for women is that it widens from 40 onwards – reaching a peak between the ages of 50 and 59.
There are, of course, a host of factors lying beneath these headline figures but nonetheless, the figures have led to a growing feeling that women are simply not getting a fair deal in the workplace.
So what do you need to do as an employer to stay on the right side of the law?
It is vital to make sure that all your terms and conditions – including bonuses and other contractual benefits - apply equally to men and women, unless there are specific factors not related to sex which justify any difference.
These factors could include areas such as experience, qualifications, the location of the job and the size of the company.
So, if you were to offer a job to a woman with a £30,000 salary just days after a man with the same level of experience left the same job while on £35,000 you could expect to fall foul of the law. But if the male predecessor had ten extra years of experience, you can justify the difference on grounds not related to sex.
You must also guard against bias in promoting men and women.
Apart from in very rare circumstances, you cannot advertise positions to people of one sex. Similarly, you cannot encourage people of one sex to apply for a promotion whilst discouraging the other sex. And it is completely unlawful to have an unwritten rule that top jobs must go to all men or all women.
In the same way, training and personal development opportunities must be made available equally and no employee should be disadvantaged during a redundancy or disciplinary process because of their sex.
There are naturally some grey areas here.
But the big picture is refreshingly simple.
Pay your men and women exactly the same for doing the same job, treat them equally through their careers and never disadvantage them because of their sex and you’ll be going a long way to meeting the terms of the Equality Act.
And, what is more, you’ll be doing the right thing.