Equal pay

Topic Index
What is equal work?
Making the equal work comparison – the comparator
Employer’s defences to equal pay claims – the material factor defence
Maternity leave and equal pay
Questionnaires – finding out about unequal pay
Equal pay tribunal procedure, claims and remedies
Equal pay audits
Resources - equal pay



  • Despite the fact that equal pay law has been around for around 40 years, the gender pay gap for women and men working full time and part time is still around 20% (when looking at the hourly earnings of all employees).
  • It’s a basic principle of European law that men and women who do equal work should receive equal pay - and this principle is implemented in the UK via the Equality Act 2010.
  • Equal pay law is essentially a type of sex discrimination law. It can sometimes be difficult to work out which law applies to a particular set of facts.
  • Equal pay law covers pay or other terms that are regulated by a contract of employment. For example, hours of work and holiday would tend to be contained in a contract and thus fall within equal pay law.
  • ‘Pay’ for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 includes basic pay, overtime rates, commission, non-discretionary bonuses, sick pay, redundancy pay, hours of work and paid holiday, access to and benefits under pension schemes, and fringe benefits such as company cars and travel allowances.
  • Sex discrimination law on the other hand covers matters which are not included in a contract of employment, e.g. promotions and discretionary pay rises or bonuses.
  • An equality clause is presumed to operate in every employment contract, giving women the right to equal pay with men, and vice versa.
  • The Equality Act 2010 applies to all ‘employees’ and ‘workers’, whether full or part time, permanent or casual, regardless of length of service or whether the contract of employment is governed by English law.
  • Although equal pay reviews are not required by law, the Equality and Human Rights Commission recommends such a review as the best way of ensuring equality in pay systems. If no progress is made voluntarily, the Equality Act 2010 contains a power (as yet unexercised) to require employers with 250+ staff to publish information about their differences in pay between male and female staff.
  • An employer who loses a claim relating to equal pay that was brought after 1 October 2014 can be required to carry out an equal pay audit. Micro and start-up businesses are exempt.
  • The material below refers to a woman bringing an equal pay claim by comparing herself with a male colleague. But the principles apply equally in reverse – a man can also bring an equal pay claim based on a comparison with a female colleague.


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