Equal pay audit step 2: determining where men and women are doing ‘equal work’

Multipage Guide

Who is this page for?

  • large organisations (50 or more employees)

Which countries is it relevant to?

    • Great Britain flag icon

      Great Britain

Under the equal pay provisions of the Equality Act 2010, men and women in the same employment who are performing equal work should receive equal pay.

This makes equal work the foundation of an equal pay audit – and it’s vital that everyone involved understands this concept.

There are three kinds of equal work. Your audit needs to make sure each kind is considered and you need to be aware of some of the key issues to look out for. 

Like work

Like work means work that involves similar tasks requiring similar skills, and where any differences in the work are not of practical importance.

Job titles are the most common indicator of like work, but they can also be misleading. You need to review the job titles in your system early in your audit to ensure that the same, or very similar, titles really do indicate like work.

Work rated as equivalent

Work rated as equivalent is work that has been rated under a fair job evaluation scheme as being of equal value in terms of how demanding it is.

Employees are likely to be doing work rated as equivalent where they have similar, but not necessarily the same, job evaluation scores and are in the same grade.

If you have a grading structure, you can use grades as a starting point for comparing the pay of men and women. But if your organisation uses broad grade bands, narrower points within the bands may need to be selected.

Look carefully at jobs just above and below grade boundaries, especially if they’re dominated by women or men.  These could easily be rated as equivalent, even though they’re in different grades.

Remember that grading which isn’t based on analytical, gender neutral job evaluation won’t provide you with an effective defence against equal pay claims.

For more information see the Job Evaluation page.

Work of equal value

Work of equal value is work which is not the same and is not rated as equivalent, but is of equal value in terms of factors such as effort, skill and decision-making.

Jobs that may be entirely different in content might be considered work of equal value when the demands made on the employees doing them are assessed. The golden rule is not to assume that different types of jobs (e.g. manual/ administrative, academic/ non-academic) can’t be of equal value.

While some employment tribunal cases have considered the question ‘what is equal?’ the answer really lies in the application of fair analytical job evaluation. This is the most reliable way of assessing whether jobs are of equal value.

If you don’t use analytical job evaluation, you need to find an alternative means of checking whether employees are doing work of equal value. It’s important to recognise that these alternative estimates of equal value are not as reliable as analytical job evaluation and that your organisation may therefore still be vulnerable to equal pay claims.


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

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)

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