Equal pay and job descriptions

Advice and Guidance

Who is this page for?

  • Employers

Which countries is it relevant to?

    • Great Britain

      Great Britain

What to include in a job description

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

Job descriptions should follow job evaluation scheme factors. This will make jobs easier to evaluate and help avoid aspects of jobs more commonly performed by women being omitted or undervalued in the evaluation process, compared to those of jobs more commonly carried out by men.

What is job evaluation?

Job evaluation is a method for comparing different jobs to provide a basis for a grading and pay structure. Its aim is to evaluate the job, not the jobholder, and to provide a relatively objective means of assessing the demands of a job

Job evaluation scheme factors (factors)

Factors are clearly identifiable aspects of jobs that can be defined and measured. They provide the basis for assessing and comparing the relative overall worth of different jobs. Examples of factors are:

  • Responsibility for people
  • Knowledge
  • Communication skills
  • Physical demands
  • Emotional demands
  • Mental skills
  • Initiative

Find out more about job evaluation and factors in the section on job evaluation schemes.

What to include in a job description

To ensure that job descriptions can be evaluated according to a common standard, they should follow an agreed format and structure.

Job descriptions should include (at least):

  • 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, and
  • Job requirements under each of the job evaluation scheme factor headings.

Who to involve

Writing a job description should involve at least three people:

  • 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’.

Ensuring bias-free job titles and descriptions

Different titles are often used for the jobs performed by men and women, even though they are doing essentially the same work. In other words, 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

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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. This means you need to look carefully at the titles for jobs performed predominantly by one sex and those performed predominantly by the other.

Similarly, part of the job analyst’s role is to avoid any unconscious gender bias in the job descriptions. This includes ensuring that they don’t omit any aspects of women's jobs, nor overemphasise in men’s jobs characteristics that are missing from jobs usually performed by women.

Accurate job descriptions are essential to your pay system

Accurate and up-to-date job descriptions are essential to carrying out job evaluation and grading, which are key steps in developing a successful pay system that meets your equal pay obligations under the Equality Act 2010.

Find out more about job evaluation as part of a fair and transparent pay system.

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.

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.

Last updated: 19 Mar 2018