By law, employers are required to treat men and women equally in terms of their working conditions, which includes pay.

Have you just discovered that you’re being paid less than your male colleague for the same work? Well, sadly, you are not alone. Despite the 47-year-old Equal Pay Act, and subsequent efforts to bridge the gender pay gap, scores of women still find themselves earning less than their male counterparts.

Although there have been some improvements – largely due to women’s progress in education, women are still generally paid less in the workplace. According to the Fawcett Society, the current gap for full-time workers stands at 13.9%.

What is pay discrimination?

Pay discrimination occurs when some employees earn more than others for performing equal work. Discrimination can be on the basis of gender, disability or race. The pay discrimination laws protect all of these categories and those laws prohibit any discrimination based on an employee’s membership in these categories.

What is equal work?

When the prickly issue of pay discrimination arises, employers typically use defenses such as length of service or performance to argue why a job that appears equal is not. Under the 2010 Equality Act, women have a right to ‘equal pay for equal work’. This is defined by law as:

Like work:

Work which is the same or broadly similar.

Work rated as equivalent:

Work rated as equivalent under an analytical job evaluation scheme.

Work of equal value:

work that is different, but is of equal value in terms of the demands it makes on the employer.

What should a woman earning less than her male colleagues do?

If you are a victim of wage discrimination or you suspect that you are earning less than your male colleagues, it can be very frustrating, but stay calm and approach the matter systematically. In the first instance:

Speak to your manager or your HR department

By law, employers are required to treat men and women equally in terms of their working conditions, which includes pay. If there is a disparity, you have every right to know why. The nature of your employment will determine whether you have a case for an equal pay claim or pay rise. It is therefore crucial you have a clear understanding of your employer’s pay system including what is rewarded and why.

Once you have established that the pay difference is based on your gender and your employer shows no willingness to redress the situation, the next step is to:

Seek legal advice

The law is on your side. Legislation now makes it much easier to bring successful pay discrimination claims. Your Union and organisations such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the Fawcett Society can act as valuable sources of information, support, and advice. Eventually, you will need the services of a solicitor who specialises in employment law. Legal advice can be sought while you are still at the organization or within 6 months of leaving.

Useful Links:

ACAS www.acas.org.uk
Fawcett Society www.fawcettsociety.org.uk
Citizens Advice Bureau www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Equality and Human Rights Commission www.equalityhumanrights.com

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