Why should I comply with equal pay law?

Advice and Guidance

Who is this page for?

  • employers

Which countries is it relevant to?

    • Great Britain

Your responsibilities

The equal pay provisions of the Equality Act 2010 make you, as an employer, responsible for ensuring that your pay systems are free from sex discrimination.

Failing to ensure that pay is determined fairly, without sex discrimination, can expose your organisation to the risk of an equal pay claim brought by an employee.

Defending an equal pay claim is time-consuming and costly.  

The direct costs of a claim could include not only any equal pay award to the employee bringing the claim, but also the cost of time spent responding to the claim and the cost of legal representation. If a claim is successful, the tribunal or court may also require that a company undertakes a full equal pay audit.

Financial penalties

If a woman makes a claim and succeeds, she can be awarded compensation consisting of back pay and/or damages for other contractual terms.  Back pay can be awarded for up to a maximum of six years (or five years in Scotland) from the date that proceedings were filed with an employment tribunal. An employment tribunal may also award interest on this, which could be considerable.

Indirect costs

There are many indirect costs, too, such as lower productivity on the part of employees who consider they’re not getting equal pay for equal work, and on the part of managers whose time is taken up in dealing with staff dissatisfaction and other repercussions. What’s more, staff dissatisfaction could lead to the loss of valued members of the organisation, low morale among employees and damage to employee relations and a company’s reputation.

It is therefore in everyone’s interests to avoid litigation. That’s why the Equality and Human Rights Commission recommends that all employers carry out an equal pay check or audit, and regularly review and monitor their pay practices.

You can find advice and information on carrying out an equal pay audit in our How to implement equal pay pages, and by downloading the Equal Pay Statutory Code of Practice.

The Code provides guidance on how to prevent or eliminate discriminatory pay practices, and explains why equal pay audits are the most effective means of ensuring that a pay system delivers equal pay for equal work.

Last updated: 19 Feb 2019

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.