Equal pay: how do I carry out job evaluation?

Advice and Guidance

Who is this page for?

  • employers

Which countries is it relevant to?

    • Great Britain

Achieving equal pay

Having a robust, consistent, gender neutral method for assessing and comparing the value of different jobs is vital to achieving equal pay. Job evaluation schemes provide a basis for a grading and pay structure, as well as a means to check and demonstrate you are providing equal pay for equal work.

The aim is to evaluate the job, not the jobholder, and to provide a way of assessing the demands of a job that is as objective as possible.

Although equal pay legislation doesn’t specifically require you to use a formal job evaluation scheme, using a scheme like this will help you to meet your legal obligations with regard to equal pay under the Equality Act 2010.

This can be crucial if you need to defend your pay system against an equal pay claim.

Developing a job evaluation scheme

The courts and tribunals have set out the standards a job evaluation must meet if it’s to provide a defence to an equal value claim – that is, a claim that an employee is doing work of equal value to that of a colleague of the opposite sex, but receiving less pay.

To provide a valid defence, the job evaluation must be meet four key criteria. It must be:

1. Analytical

The job evaluation should assess each job in terms of the demands made on the employee under ‘job factors’ such as ‘mental effort’, ‘skill’, ‘physical effort’ and ‘decision-making’.

2. Thorough and impartial

It must objectively assess the value placed on the work performed and, as far as possible, be sufficiently explicit and comprehensive to avoid the results of the evaluation being influenced by subjective views.

3. Gender neutral

It should be objective and non-discriminatory, recognise the skills of men and women equally, and be applied in a consistent and unbiased way.

4. Reliable

Its procedures and practices must be up to date and documented, as should its evaluation results, and it must be fully completed across the organisation.

Analytical job evaluation schemes

Analytical job evaluation is method of evaluating jobs by separately appraising individual job demands, known as factors. Scores are awarded for each factor. Combining the scores for each factor gives a single score for the job. The total  points scored decide a job’s place in the ranking order.

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

Except in very broad terms, such as effort, skill, decision-making, there is no standard set of factors applicable to all jobs. The choice of which factors to use is crucial since the final rank order of jobs is most heavily affected by the selection of factors.

Job evaluators

A panel of 3 or more people with broad knowledge of jobs across the organisation should do the evaluation. This helps to ensure more accurate outcomes, wider understanding of the scheme and buy in from staff. The evaluators should also be representative of the gender of the workforce and where possible of other protected characteristics, for instance, ethnicity and age. A representative panel increases the credibility of the job evaluation exercise, especially among protected groups, because they can see that some of their number were included in the process. Finally, all those who have active roles in implementing the job evaluation system should be trained in equality issues and the avoidance of sex and other prohibited forms of bias.

Monitoring and maintenance of a job evaluation scheme

Ongoing monitoring and maintenance of a job evaluation scheme is vital. Maintenance and monitoring arrangements should meet good equality practice requirements:

  • Job information is revised when significant changes in jobs occur
  • There is a fair and robust process for evaluating changed jobs and this is quality checked on a regular basis.
  • Periodic checks are made to ensure adequate rationales are being kept Outcomes of ongoing evaluations for new and changed jobs are monitored by gender, any differences are investigated and can be justified.

If you are considering carrying out job evaluation, speak to an Acas adviser or other job evaluation expert for guidance. Further information about how to construct and implement a job evaluation scheme is available in the Acas advisory booklet – Job evaluation: considerations and risks.

Avoiding gender bias

Gender neutrality is a key requirement in the design of a successful job evaluation scheme. Without it, a job evaluation will not be an effective defence in an equal pay claim.

There are five main areas where job evaluations can be susceptible to gender bias. Addressing these five risks will help to ensure your job evaluation is gender neutral.

Job factors are aspects of a job that can be defined and measured, such as ‘knowledge and expertise’, ‘mental effort’ or ‘physical demands’. A factor plan is the combination of factors against which jobs are assessed during job evaluation.

A robust job evaluation needs to identify all the demands of a job, and not overvalue or ignore factors that are associated with jobs typically done by one gender or the other.

Gender bias may occur if the factor plan omits factors relevant to jobs mainly done by women, such as manual dexterity, communication skills or meeting emotional demands. These factors are often regarded as skills that women possess ‘naturally’ or acquire through life experience, so are often left out of job evaluations.

Similarly, if factors are not chosen carefully, it could result in a duplication or overlap of job demands. This can lead to one or more demands of a job being counted more than once, exaggerating the overall demands of one aspect of the job.

Courts require job evaluations to be reliable. Two assessments of job value, however performed, must produce the same results. Job factors need to be clearly described so that they are readily understood, and applied consistently.

Descriptions of job factors should explain the meaning and scope of each factor and must be impartial. They should not imply assumptions about the gender of jobholders or the demands of work associated with one gender.

For example, a definition of ‘experience’, which includes continuous length of service, may discriminate against women because they tend to have breaks in service due to childcare. For a job evaluation, if the necessary job demands can be learnt in two months, then 20 years’ service by a jobholder is not relevant.

Factors in a job evaluation can often contain different levels to indicate different demands related to complexity, managerial oversight or autonomy.

For example, the factor ‘initiative’ might contain several levels, ranging from the lowest defined as ‘following detailed instructions under close supervision’, to the highest defined as ‘working within overall policy and having very wide discretion over a broad range of activities with minimal managerial direction’.

These levels must be objective, measurable and relevant to the demands of the job.

To avoid sex bias in the number of levels you need to ensure that factors characteristic of 'male' jobs do not have more levels than those factors characteristic of 'female' jobs. If the factors characteristic of jobs typically held by men have more levels than jobs typically held by women, this may result in gender bias because people who have the 'male' jobs will have a higher potential score.

The wording of factor levels must also avoid bias. For example, specifying job knowledge levels only in terms of formal academic qualifications might disadvantage women who have equivalent levels of job knowledge acquired in other ways.

The method for scoring each job factor should be similar. Otherwise, factors with the same or similar numbers of levels can result in widely differing scores.

For example, a factor of ‘responsibility for financial resources’ might be given five levels, each valued at five points. The factor of ‘responsibility for caring’ might also be given five levels, but with each level valued at only three points. This could lead to gender bias if the factors with higher value scores are associated with jobs traditionally done by men.

Job factors are not all equally important and it is normal to reflect this by weighting the factor scores. For example, an important factor may be weighted at 10% and an unimportant factor may be weighted at 5%.

Gender bias must not be allowed to affect the weighting of factors.

If you face a legal challenge, you will need to justify the factor weightings by showing the importance of the factors to the organisation as a whole.

You can find more information on gender neutral job evaluation in our booklet: Gender-Neutral Job Evaluation Schemes. An Introductory Guide.

For advice and guidance on how to implement an analytical job evaluation scheme in your organisation, see the Acas advisory booklet Job Evaluation: Consideration and Risks.


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 Feb 2019

Contact Acas for further information

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