Equal pay for everybody

When people talk about Equal Pay cases, it is often seen as an issue only for the public sector with cases involving large amount of claimants and the compensation running into millions of pounds.  However, with the ruling from the Court of Appeal allowing for the employment tribunal brought by more than 7,000 former and current workers against ASDA over equal pay, to continue it is clear that equal pay is no longer just a concern for the public section – not that it should have even been.  The ASDA case involves claimants who worked as checkout staff and shelf stackers, the majority whom are female, arguing that their jobs are comparable to the warehouse roles which are male dominated and generally better paid.  The case was due to be heard on the 20 June over 7 days and although we are still waiting the outcome of the case, companies should take it as a warning to consider the pay differentiation across the roles in their own organisations.  However it doesn’t mean companies have to pay everybody the same, you can still have differences in pay.  There are three main defences which are:

  • the person and their comparator are not doing equal work
  • the chosen comparator is not legally valid (for example the comparator not in the same employment)
  • the difference in pay is due to a material factor.  If the material factor is indirectly discriminatory (in that, as a result of the factor, the claimant and women doing equal work to hers are put at a particular disadvantage when compared with men doing equal work to hers) the employer must show that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

One of the ways to defend an equal pay claim is have completed job evaluations in place to establish the differences in the roles and therefore show the need to have differences in pay.  Job evaluations can look at many different areas but examples of factors commonly assessed include:

    • knowledge and skills
    • people management
    • communication and networking
    • decision-making
    • working environment
    • impact and influence
    • financial responsibility.
    • Technical requirements of the role

One other word of caution regarding equal pay claims is do not assume that it is only something female employees will raise as in 2014 23 male workers at a university in Wales who were paid less than their female counterparts have won around £500,000 in compensation after suing for sex discrimination.


Should you have any queries regarding your own pay system and how you can ensure fairness, please do not hesitate to contact HPC.

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