Having already paid out over £1 billion in equal pay claims, and now facing claims for further millions, Birmingham City Council’s financial crisis is a stark reminder of why it is so important to get equal pay right.
All employers will undoubtably know the basic principle that men and women must receive equal pay for doing equal work. However, it is possible for employers to be caught out by some complications of the rules:
Where equal pay rules become less black and white is in the arena of equal work. This is where Birmingham City Council came unstuck. The original dispute in 2012 arose because bonuses given to staff in traditionally male-dominated roles discriminated against female workers working in roles such as cleaners, teaching assistants and catering staff.
Comparisons are not necessarily on an exact like-for-like basis. It might be that the level of skill, responsibility and effort needed to do work are equivalent, or work might simply be of equal value, even if the roles seem different, such as comparing warehouse and clerical jobs.
Differences in pay
Although differences in pay terms and conditions are permitted, this must have nothing to do with gender identity. For example, someone in a similar role could be paid more if they are better qualified or are employed in a location where recruitment is difficult.
One way for employers to avoid equal pay disputes is to be transparent in regard to pay and grading systems. Job descriptions should be up-to-date and accurate.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) has published guidance for employers on equal pay on its website.