Equal pay: different roles of equal value

A retail giant is the latest to defend equal pay claims, after similar battles were faced by other rival supermarkets last year.

The progress made in recent cases could expose other organisations to similar group actions and legal claims, including giving rise to sex discrimination claims, stemming from equal pay arguments relating to alleged gender disparity.

Unlike other employment tribunal claims, equal pay claims can be brought by employees, workers, apprentices, agency workers, full time, part-time or temporary contractors and self-employed people who are hired to personally do the work. Should someone feel that they are not receiving equal pay, they may be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal.

An equal pay claim arises from disputes relating not only to pay, but also terms and conditions of employment, including:

  • basic salary
  • pensions
  • working hours
  • holiday pay
  • overtime pay
  • redundancy pay
  • non-discretionary bonuses
  • other conditions of employment

The Equality Act

As set out in the Equality Act 2010, men and women in the same employment performing equal work must receive equal pay, unless the employer can justify the difference in pay. The claim requires a nature of comparison, the individual advancing the claim will need to identify a comparator and prove that they carry out equal work to themselves, being either like work, work rated as equivalent or work of equal value.

It should be highlighted that even two different job roles can be considered of equal value when broken down into factors, such as effort, skill and demand. Most recently in the group action brought against a retail giant, it conceded a “comparability concession” allowing more than 1,600 shop floor workers to compare their roles to those of their colleagues in the distribution centres of the business. Although the claim continues, this is a step towards the different roles being considered as equal value.

Now would be a prudent time for any business or HR body to review their internal processes and policies and proceed with caution to avoid triggering liabilities for their organisations. Generally good practice is to:

  • have an equal pay policy
  • have up to date job descriptions that accurately describe the work carried out by staff
  • be consistent when deciding salaries, contractual terms and conditions.

Should you wish to check your business for equal pay issues, you can do so by carrying out an equal pay audit or equal pay review, dependant on the size of the organisation.

Jessica Kinnear, Solicitor in the Employment Team at BLM
0207 865 8072

Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to clients of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.