Set the right pay rates

Equal pay for work of equal value

Guide

The law says that men and women are entitled to equal pay for work of equal value.

Pay in this context includes contractual benefits, eg bonuses and pension contributions, as well as basic wages or salary.

The Equal Pay Act (Northern Ireland) 1970 (as amended) provides for equal pay between women and men in the same employment.

It does so by giving a woman the right to equality in the terms of her contract of employment where she is employed on:

  • like work to that of a man
  • work rated as equivalent to that of a man
  • work of equal value to that of a man

Read more on equal pay - the law and best practice.

Equal pay claims

Workers who believe they haven't received equal pay may lodge a complaint to an industrial tribunal. In the course of an equal pay claim, you may be called upon to explain and justify your pay practices and arrangements.

An equal pay complaint can be decided by an industrial tribunal, or, if both parties agree, can be determined by an arbitrator under the statutory arbitration scheme. Read more about the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) Arbitration Scheme.

For their tribunal claim to be successful, a worker will need to compare their pay to that of someone of the opposite sex (a 'comparator').

There are laws in place to deal with large and complex equal value cases. The laws aim to streamline the system and reduce delays. There are also restrictions on when an industrial tribunal/arbitrator may choose not to consider an equal value claim.

Read more about tribunal claims.

Ensuring equal pay

To ensure that you are paying your workers fairly, you could undertake a job evaluation. This compares the skills and competencies that each type of job requires. With this information, you can determine which jobs are of equal value.

The evaluation must analyse a job by preset factors that apply to all the jobs under evaluation rather than looking at each job in isolation. Avoid basic errors such as assuming jobs that are being done part-time are of lesser value.

With regular reviews of your pay system, you can build and maintain a robust, fair pay system that stands up to scrutiny and is less susceptible to claims for equal pay.