Equal pay: your rights

The Equal Pay Act 1970 means that people should be paid the same regardless of their gender. You have a right not to be paid less than someone of the opposite sex doing:

  • the same work or similar work (legally known as 'like work')
  • different work that is of equal value to your employer (known as 'work of equal value')

On this page

  • What is pay discrimination?
  • Which benefits does equal pay include?
  • Does equal pay apply to me?
  • What is a comparator? Comparing your work to someone else’s

What is pay discrimination?

There are a number of ways pay discrimination can happen. Examples include:

  • a woman is appointed on a lower rate of pay than her male colleagues
  • a woman on maternity leave is denied a bonus received by other staff
  • women's jobs are given different job titles and grades to those of men doing similar work
  • part-time staff, mostly women, have no entitlement to sick pay or holiday pay
  • all staff are placed on individual contracts and not allowed to discuss their pay rates

Men paid less than their female colleagues also have a right to equal pay.

If you think you are experiencing pay discrimination, you can take a claim for equal pay to the employment tribunal.  As a general rule you can take your claim at any time while you are in the job or within six months of leaving that employment.  However, the time limit can be affected by various factors, including the statutory grievance procedure and certain changes to the contract.

Which benefits does equal pay include?

Equal pay law defines pay very broadly. The Equal Pay Act covers all contractual terms and conditions and is likely to include:

  • basic salary
  • occupational pension
  • sick pay
  • holiday pay
  • overtime
  • shift payments
  • performance and profit related pay
  • share options.

Does equal pay apply to me?

The Equal Pay Act covers a broad range of workers in Great Britain regardless of their length of service and whether they are on full-time, part-time, casual or temporary contracts.

Equal pay law can be used to challenge discrimination in pay and other contractual terms and conditions of employment against part-time workers, where a part-time worker can identify part-time or full-time colleagues of the opposite sex who are doing equal work and who are in the same employment.

Are any terms of my contract of employment not covered by the Equal Pay Act?

Yes, there are a few terms which are excluded. The Equal Pay Act extends to all matters covered by an employee's contract, except for the following:

  • The Equal Pay Act allows special treatment of women on account of pregnancy and/or childbirth. See Your rights: Equal pay during pregnancy and maternity
  • People employed wholly outside Great Britain are unable to make claims under the Act unless they are employed by an organisation which has an establishment in Great Britain, and their work is done for that establishment, and either the person was ordinarily resident in Great Britain when they applied for or took the job on, or they have been ordinarily resident in Great Britain at any time during the course of the overseas contract.
  • People employed on board a ship registered in Great Britain or on an aircraft or hovercraft which is registered in the United Kingdom are to be treated as an employee of a British establishment. However, if the work is carried out wholly or mainly overseas, or outside British territorial waters, they will not be classed as an employee of a British establishment unless they satisfy the criteria set out above.

What is a comparator? Comparing your work to someone else’s

You may be experiencing pay discrimination if someone doing like work or work of equal value is:

  • of the opposite sex
  • paid more than you, and
  • working for the same employer

This person is known as the 'comparator', and you must identify them in any equal pay claim. You cannot simply claim that your employer generally pays women less than men.

The Equal Pay Act cannot be used to deal with unequal pay where the comparator is of the same sex, regardless of how unfair or how irrational the employer's pay arrangements are.

'Working for the same employer' includes people who work:

  • for the same employer at your workplace
  • for the same employer at a different workplace
  • for an associated employer (e.g. where your comparator works for your employer's parent company)
  • in the same service (e.g. where you work for an NHS Trust and your comparator works for a different NHS Trust)

Last Updated: 30 Jun 2009