Dispelling the myths of equal pay

Whilst watching BBC Question Time last night and hearing the comments and thoughts on the rights of women in the light of the Tesco equal pay test case I had to put pen to paper….

As an experienced job evaluator who has worked in the arena of equal pay across the public sector in recent years I am still amazed that we continue to see examples of potential discrimination regarding employee rights and that both men and women fight to be rewarded fairly and equitably for the jobs that they do on a day to day basis.

Women came to the national stage arguing for equal pay back in the 1960s following strike action by the female workers at the Ford Dagenham factory.  Following these actions The Equal Pay Act came in to force in 1970 and today, some 48 years later and with the Equality Act in place, we still do not appear to understand what this is all about.

Historically female dominated jobs were always low paid when compared to male dominated jobs.  It appears that this is still potentially happening today.

All jobs are different and require specific job-related knowledge, skills and attributes to enable the job holder, whether a man or a women, to be successful in their chosen occupation.  However just because the jobs are different it does not mean that we cannot compare them to determine whether they are equal and therefore all employees being entitled to be paid and receive benefits on an equitable basis.

There are three situations in which the law demands equality of pay:

  • First what is known as ‘like work’.  This is where a female and male employee are employed in the same role.
  • Secondly, what is known as ‘work rated as equivalent’.  This is where two different jobs are scored equally using a job evaluation scheme.
  • Thirdly, what is known as ‘equal value’.   This is where jobs require the same levels of effort, skill, knowledge and responsibility but may be very different in job purpose and content. Employment Tribunals use expert job evaluators to decide this issue.

So, just because a job- requires  work in a cold environment, has daily health and safety risks and is physically demanding (like the male warehouse operatives at Tesco) does not mean that it cannot be seen to be of equal value to a job role requiring  work in a warm store, handling cash and dealing with customers on a daily basis.

Wise companies ensure that jobs are compared and evaluated (formally or informally) to ensure fairness in pay across the board, that men and women have the same opportunities to work flexibly without being penalised and having to accept low-skilled and, low paid roles and that everyone has the same access to training and promotion opportunities.

As an expert in job evaluation, I offer my clients confidential guidance on which job roles might be found by a Tribunal to be comparable, and with this the peace of mind that they are not going to be the next Tesco, hit with multiple equal pay claims.

Elaine Fisher is a Director and Senior HR and Pay Consultant at Eagle HR and a Partner (non-lawyer) at Harrison Clark Rickerbys, contact her on 01905 746 446 or email her at [email protected]