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The Equal Pay Act UK: Everything You Need To Know

Men And Women Office Employees

The Equal Pay Act is one of the main forms of protection we employees have. So, how does it ensure that discrimination is eradicated from the UK workforce?

Discover more, here…

Think you might be receiving less pay than someone else in your workplace, based on your gender? Perhaps you suspect it, but are unsure how to approach the situation?

Your employer has the responsibility and duty to ensure you and your colleagues are happy in your workplace. If not, you may decide to seek new employment, and make a claim for constructive dismissal in the process. So, in order to do so, it’s important that your rights are adhered to.

The Equal Pay Act, which was originally based around gender, and now pertains to a number of other demographics, is important for all workplaces. This puts a stop to any discrimination based on someone’s perceived ability due to their personal state. To discover the ins and outs of how this act came about, and how you are protected under it, read on…

What is the Equal Pay Act 1970?

The Equal Pay Act was the implementation of an equal system, wherein women had the right to claim equal earnings to men in the same position as them. So, in essence, men and women were legally allowed to be on the same wage. A woman could, and still can claim for equal pay if they:

  • Perform “like work”: their role is the same or similar to a man’s, even if the job title isn’t the same.
  • Their work is rated as equivalent: their work rated as equivalent to someone else’s as per a job evaluation scheme.
  • Work of equal value: their role requires the same effort, responsibility, skills, and knowledge as someone else’s.

A woman has the legal right to claim equal pay against a man who works for the same employer as her, whether it be within the same building or not. As long as common terms and conditions in their contracts apply, they are entitled to claim. What’s more, she can also claim if she is being paid differently to someone working with an associated company, i.e. the employer’s parent organisation.

Where Did the Equal Pay Act 1970 All Begin?

In the late 1960s, a group of women working in the Ford factory in Dagenham discovered that they were being paid 15 percent less than their male counterparts. This came down to the fact that a pay regrade viewed their sewing labour to be “unskilled”. So, these 187 female machinists walked out, claiming that their grade of ‘B’ was an unfair assessment of their work, compared to the men in the factory with a higher grade of ‘C’.

On the 7th June 1968, when the 850 brave women went on strike, the entire Ford factory went into meltdown. Without the machinists putting together the innards of the cars, no cars were making it out of the factory line. This, by all means, was not the end of the story, but this day marks a prominent day in the history of feminists.

Thanks to these women, the world we live in today was completely altered. When they stood up for their rights, the Equal Pay Act 1970, and the later one in 2010, were formed.

What is the Equal Pay Act 2010?

If this act was brought in in the 70s, why do we always hear about the Equal Pay Act 2010? Well, this is simply an updated version of the previous laws, which brought it all together under one act.

Previously, the Equal Pay Act was spread out across 100 legislations. This new act not only brought the entire legislation into one act, but it also brought in a number of other demographics too. So, now the act supports people of all different races, genders, disabilities, ages, sexual orientations, and religions.

This doesn’t just distinguish pay, but it also ensures people aren’t discriminated against based on their gender etc. on all accounts. This includes when it comes to applying for jobs, and once they’ve made it into the workplace. What’s more, the payment terms under the act ensure that women are paid equally in all aspects of payment, including:

  • Overtime payment
  • Bonus payments
  • Wages
  • Basic Salaries
  • Performance-related commission
  • Pension scheme access and benefits
  • Annual Leave
  • Severance and redundancy pay
  • Sick pay
  • Company cars
  • Number of working hours
  • Travel allowances etc.

How do You Know if You’re Receiving Equal Pay

Equal pay is a legal right, so it’s important that you ensure you are receiving this when you enter the workforce. You may be thinking, “but my contract states I can’t discuss my pay with my colleagues”. Yes, this may be written in your contract, but if you suspect you are being paid unequally, this rule is completely overwritten.

Women Thinking By Laptop

So, if you think you may be being paid unequally based on your gender, your age, or anything else, there are some ways to get the truth. These could include:

  • Asking around to see what your colleagues’ salaries are;
  • Checking on online job advertisements;
  • Conducting an equal pay questionnaire;
  • Researching some job evaluation studies, which determines the value of your job in a company.

What to do if You Aren’t Receiving Equal Pay…

In order to be sure you’ll acquire one of the successful equal pay claims, you’ll need to follow some guidelines to achieve an amicable result…

To begin the process, start by attempting to rectify the problem in person. You could do this by writing a letter or an email to your employer stating the problem, or talking to them in person. This way, you can establish whether you are, in fact, being paid less due to your gender, age, or the like.

This will also help you to establish if your employer can attempt to justify it. Many employers tend to justify the situation by arguing that the job is not on an equal playing-field to who you’re arguing against. To combat this, you should make sure you have some clearly outlined points as to why you feel they are equal.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service

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If this comes off successfully, you won’t even have to make a claim, which will save you and your employer a lot of time, money, and hassle. However, it’s not always as simple as this. If the problem cannot be resolved internally, the next step is to notify Acas or UNISON; a more formal procedure. This way, you can make a claim for your lost earnings.

Complaining in this way, to an employment tribunal under the Equality Act 2010, can be done whilst you are still working in the job. It can also be done up to six months after leaving the workplace. In situations like this, you can claim up to a maximum of six years of lost earning, and five years if you live in Scotland.

How Effective is the Equal Pay Act 1970?

As you can see, these clearly defined set of rules and regulations mean that the Equal Pay Act has changed the lives of many. That said, in many cases, equal pay isn’t always provided, even if the law says so. After all, with the strict contractual obligations to keep salaries a secret, it can be difficult to know if you are being underpaid.

That’s not to say that it isn’t effective. In fact, there are a number of cases where women managed to claim thousands due to their unequal pay to a male colleague. Clearly, it has changed our world for the better.

Why is There Still a Gender Pay Gap?

Despite attempts to eradicate this pay gap, there is still a huge disparity between how much men and women are paid.

This is not to say that Equal Pay and the Gender Pay Gap are the same. Equal Pay is the act of paying people the same for the same job, but the gender pay gap is the idea that men earn more, on average, compared to women. There are a number of reasons why this is still the case, including:

  • Men being in more senior roles than women;
  • Women are limited by their caring responsibilities, often having to take on part-time work;
  • Women choose to work in lower paid sectors so that they can work part-time;
  • Similarly, women choose to apply for less senior roles so they can work part-time.

Clearly, this is a systematic issue; the workplace is often still tailored to a 1950s world where men earned the bread, and women stayed at home to care for children. However, in a world of massive social change, our outdated workplace may need to rethink to combat these issues.

We Still Have a Long Way to Go…

Here, we’ve broken down the ins-and-outs of the Equal Pay Act. We’ve also discussed the issue that many women are still not on a level-playing field in terms of how much they’re paid.

Clearly, we still have a long way to go before women are, on average, paid a similar rate to men. It’s really all down to a change in the system to fit more modern times. After all, a modern world calls for a modern workplace, which we’re slowly but surely seeing.

Has this answered some of your burning equal pay questions? Have we managed to clear up the difference between equal pay and the gender pay gap for you? We hope you’ve now learned enough to fight for your rights.

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