Equal pay and job descriptions

Advice and Guidance

Who is this page for?

  • employers

Which countries is it relevant to?

    • Great Britain

Job descriptions are key to a transparent, fair pay system. Having accurate job descriptions based on job evaluation scheme factors makes it much easier to evaluate and grade different jobs – and ensure that employees doing equal work receive equal pay.

Read our guidance on job evaluation schemes

Follow this quick and easy checklist to make sure your job descriptions don’t put you at risk of an equal pay issue:

Make sure your job descriptions are clear and can be evaluated to a common standard

Ensure they follow an agreed format and structure, which is consistent across all jobs, and include:

  • job title
  • relationships at work (for example, the type and degree of supervision received, the type and degree of supervision given, the nature and extent of co-operation with other workers)
  • purpose of job (in 2 sentences at most)
  • main job duties/ responsibilities (usually 6-10 key activities), showing approximate percentage of time spent on each (ball park figures) and the extent of discretion or responsibility in relation to each duty
  • job requirements under each of the job evaluation scheme factor headings

Involve at least three people in writing job descriptions

These should be:

  • the employee who does the job, or a representative worker. Make the most of their detailed knowledge of the role to ensure the description is accurate and does not overlook any aspects

  • the jobholder's supervisor or manager, to provide their insight into what the job involves, and
  • the person responsible for actually writing the job descriptions, sometimes called a ‘job analyst’.

Remove any bias from job titles and descriptions

When writing a job description, you should ensure it doesn’t undervalue work performed predominantly by women, or overvalue work performed predominantly by men.

These typically seem to give a higher status to the job done by the man:

Male job title Female job title
Technician Operator
Office manager Office supervisor
Tailor Seamstress
Personal assistant Secretary
Administrator Secretary
Chef Cook

Swipe right >

In many cases, different job titles may denote a pay difference based not on the content of the work done, but on the sex of the jobholder. When reviewing job titles look carefully at the titles for jobs performed predominantly by one sex and those performed predominantly by the other.

Disclaimer

While every effort has been made to ensure that this advice is accurate and up to date, it does not guarantee that you could successfully defend an equal pay claim. Only the courts or tribunals can give authoritative interpretations of the law.

Last updated: 19 Aug 2020

Contact Acas for further information

If you are involved in an employment dispute or are seeking information on employment rights and rules, you can contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas):

Visit the Acas website

Freephone: 0300 123 1100 (8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm Saturday)

Text Relay service: 18001 0300 123 1100.