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What is an equal pay claim?

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate in pay on the grounds of an employee’s sex. A “sex equality clause” is implied into every contract of employment which gives each employee a right to equal terms and conditions of employment for “like” (ie, similar) work, or work rated as “equivalent” in a job evaluation study. This applies equally to men and women. If the employee can demonstrate the above, then on application a Tribunal can order equality in terms and conditions of employment.

What counts as pay?

Pay covers salary and other benefits such as pensions, bonus and overtime rates.

Who is the comparator?

A claimant employee must be able to identify a comparable employee of the opposite sex in the same employment. This includes an employee of either the claimant’s employer, or an associated employer at the same or a different establishment provided that there are common terms and conditions of employment.

What are the defences?

The employer must show that the differences in pay or conditions are explained by something other than the sex of the relevant employees, for example particular qualifications or length of service or that there is a genuine material factor which is responsible for the difference which is neither directly nor indirectly discriminatory. If so, the employer will succeed regardless of any disparity in pay.

What can be recovered?

A successful claim entitles an employee to arrears of pay (or damages) for up to six years prior to the proceedings being issued.

How long does an employee have to bring a claim?

The employee must still be in employment, or have been employed within six months of the date of the application to the Employment Tribunal. A claim can also be brought in the Courts, where the time limit for bringing a claim is six years.

How can employees find out information?

Formal questionnaires in a set form have been abolished, but employees may still write seeking information about differences in pay and the responses used in subsequent Tribunal proceedings.

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