Equal pay is a legal obligation. In recent months it has hit the headlines, with the BBC notably coming under fire for inequality in pay between the sexes. And you can expect more front pages, as by 4 April 2018 (or 30 March for the public sector) all employers with 250 or more employees are required to report their gender pay gap and bonus data.
Why has there been such an emphasis on equal pay recently? Well, because despite the fact that equal pay is a legal obligation, it’s still blatantly clear that many organisations are simply not conforming to the legislation. Women are, despite huge advances in equality in the workplace over the past 30 years, still coming up short when it comes to the pay gap. No longer content to simply ‘shut up and put up’ with this discrimination, women are now voicing their anger over what is a clear violation of the law, and fundamentally unjust treatment when it comes to the monthly pay packet.
What does equal pay mean?
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) outlines that employers must: “Give men and women equal treatment in the terms and conditions of their employment contract if they are employed to do:
- 'Like work' – that is work that is the same or broadly similar
- Work rated as equivalent under a job evaluation study
- Work found to be of equal value in terms of effort, skill or decision making.”
Equal pay doesn’t just refer to the basic pay packet. It also covers extras including:
- Rates for overtime
- Hours of work allocated
- Access to pension schemes
- Annual leave entitlement.
And it is not just about ensuring men and women are paid the same for the same or similar job, either. It also relates to other groups protected by law, such as people with a disability or from different ethnic backgrounds.
What can and can’t employees discuss regarding pay?
The Equality Act 2010 states it is unlawful for an employer in Great Britain to prevent employees from having discussions to establish if there are differences in pay. However, an employer can require their employees to keep pay rates confidential from people outside of the workplace.
Employers also need to ensure that any discussions about equal pay are protected. No one should be victimised following a request for information about pay for the purpose of making a claim of discrimination.
Legal help for employees who think they are not receiving equal pay
The law is there to support individuals who are not receiving equal pay. However it is a complex area, so you should speak to an employment law specialist for advice if possible.
Generally, you can claim for up to six years of lost earnings, but there are strict time limits. That means it makes sense to get expert legal advice as quickly as possible.
To start with, you don’t have to make an official complaint but could speak to your employer informally. If this does not resolve the issue talk to a solicitor to discuss the possibility of mediation before deciding whether to take your case to an employment tribunal.
When making a tribunal claim it makes sense to have someone in your corner with a thorough understanding of the law. They can give valuable advice and, depending on what you agree, their fees could be taken from the amount that you win from your employer if your case is successful.
Legal solutions for businesses
For any business, complying with the law around equal pay is essential. Failure can leave your business open to costly litigation as well as seriously affecting your reputation in the eyes of staff, customers, shareholders, and the public.
The laws around equal pay are extremely complex and ever changing. This can leave your business wide open to claims, so it’s important to stay up to date with all current legislation.
Seeking expert advice from an employment law specialist can give businesses of all sizes the tools needed to meet all legal obligations. This can include:
- Putting the right policies in place
- Ensuring contracts are robust
- Delivering appropriate training for staff and managers.
Your legal team can also:
- Help you carry out an Equal Pay Questionnaire to establish the situation
- Advise you of the strength of any case and whether it makes business sense to settle a claim before tribunal
- Help you identify your defences
- Ensure that all the strict timings for evidence are complied with.
If you receive warning of an equal pay claim you should seek legal advice as quickly as possible. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. But be cautious as if you attempt to deal with the situation without taking professional advice, you could say something that is used against you in the future.
Here are the types of cases we handle:
- Contracts of Employment
- Employer Staff Handbooks
- Redundancy Process
- Breach of Contract
- Breach of Restrictive Covenants
- Tribunal Claims
- Settlement Agreements
- Consultancy Agreements
Sports and Football Law
- Contracts of Employment
- Service Agreements
- Contractual Issues
- Executive Departures
"Over the years, I have developed a great trust in my working relationship with Mike Dyer, Head of Commercial Law at Verisona. One of the things I value most is that he is always at the end of a phone. On the rare occasions he is unavailable, his secretary is always well informed and very helpful. Through Mike, I have met many other members of Verisona and, just like in the recruitment industry, they understand the importance of being treated like an individual. They make me feel valued and important to both them and their business. At Verisona, you always deal with real people who you know and are in a position to help. Most importantly, Verisona delivers. We recently had an urgent situation regarding the restrictive covenants of new members of staff. Employment specialist Susan Ball came in on a day off to listen to us, dissect and analyse the situation, and translate what we wanted to achieve into the best possible legal language and solution. This is just one example of the calm, efficient professionalism I have come to value from Verisona over the years. Verisona has a refreshing approach to the law. They are there when we need them, always easy to talk to, go out of their way to make sure that we understand what they are doing for us and why, and always get the best results".
Legally enforcing the tribunal award
To enforce the Tribunal award we applied to the Defendant’s local County Court for it to be registered and for permission to enforce the award.
The Court granted the application and on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines. As a result the Tribunal award would appear as a County Court Judgment which would likely affect the Defendant’s credit rating.
Time limits for enforcing Tribunal awards
It is worth noting that there is no time restriction for registering or enforcing a Tribunal award. You can enforce one even if it is several years old. In addition, it is usually possible to claim interest on the amount until you receive payment.
A commercial business
"Thanks for all your help on this - you've been so helpful to me in guiding and explaining everything, so just to say thank you for obviously helping represent my case but also allowing me to understand the process and giving me greater awareness of what I need to be mindful of when signing future contracts".
Former employee of professional football club
Sue was easy to deal with and offered all options available. Jane was in contact beforehand to tell me what information was needed and Sue was prepared for our meeting. I cannot praise Sue and Jane enough and would have absolutely no hesitation in reommending Sue and her team.