Equal pay and your rightsYou might not remember how you caught wind of it. Perhaps a chat with a colleague while the kettle’s brewing, or an off-hand comment made during a Zoom call. But suddenly, you’re aware that you’re not being equally paid.
By law, companies must pay employees the same for equal work, or work of equal value. The law also covers sick pay, pensions, holiday allowance, overtime, bonuses, benefits, and even working hours. If you believe your company aren’t paying you in line with these laws, you could make an equal pay claim.
Your employer may try to include a pay secrecy clause in your contract. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take action.
In England, Scotland, and Wales, if you suspect you’re not being fairly paid, whether because of your age, race, gender, or any other protected characteristic, the pay secrecy clause counts for nothing.
You have the right to ask your colleagues and investigate whether there’s a link between your lower pay and your protected characteristics. Workplace discrimination is illegal.
Making an equal pay claim
When can you make a claim?Equal pay laws are covered by the Equality Act 2010. That prevents an employer paying you based on your protected characteristics. You’re covered if you’re:
- An employee
- Temp staff or agency worker
You must also choose a comparator – that is, the colleague whose pay you’re choosing to compare to your own. This should be a current employee or your predecessor, and they must be performing the same or similar role to you.
It doesn’t need to be an identical job. Let’s say you’re an upholsterer, you could reasonably argue that a seamstress does a similar job of similar value at the company.
But an equal pay claim couldn’t be brought against the chief executive because she’s earning more than the website developer.
You and your comparator must be working at the same company or an associated employer, such as the parent company.
Your equal pay claim would also fail if your employer could reasonably prove that difference in pay has nothing to do with your protected characteristics. This discrepancy might be due to experience, location (city living is more expense), or there have been clear problems filling the role prior to hiring a particular member of staff.
What’s the equal pay claim process?Talk to your employer. Long before you consider legal action, you should attempt to resolve the issue head-on. This can be a nerve-wracking and emotional experience, so you could also have a third-party mediate any conversation around your pay.
If no headway is made, make a formal complaint.
As with any discrimination claim, your employer must, by law, investigate your grievance. This will typically be followed by a meeting between you and management.
If your employer refuses to make changes, and you still believe you’re being unfairly paid because of protected characteristics, it’s time to chat to employment solicitors.
The most likely outcome now is that you’ll take your equal pay claim to an employment tribunal. So, it’s best to get some advice from a legal expert who can guide you through the process.
Taking your claim to a tribunalBefore you can initiate your claim with an employment tribunal, you or your solicitor needs to inform ACAS – a public body that works to ‘resolve work-related disputes and promote harmony.’
Once they’ve received this notification, they’ll send you information about ‘early conciliation’. This is essentially a form of mediation, letting you and your employer discuss the matter with an independent third-party.
If you haven’t already gone through mediation with your employer, take them up on this offer now. It’s not mandatory (both you and your employer can refuse to attend). However, it may hurt your case to decline this invitation.
At the end of early conciliation, you’ll either receive a legally binding agreement between you and your employer or a certificate allowing you to take your equal pay claim to the tribunal.
You can make an equal pay claim while you’re still an employee, or up to six months after you’ve left.
Finding an employment solicitorIt’s usually best to find an employment solicitor when you think your claim’s going to end up at an employment tribunal.
These are experts in their field, offering all the advice you need to get you through what can often be a stressful process.
Compare and connect with trusted solicitors tailored to your needs and budget. Use our quick quote form to sort your equal pay dispute today.