How to avoid gender pay discrimination

On International Women’s Day, the Minister for Women, Baroness Stedman-Scott, announced an equal pay transparency pilot scheme by publishing salaries on all job adverts. Studies have shown that not asking interviewees about their previous salary at the interview stage ensures that unequal pay between men and women does not become further entrenched when they start in new positions.

It is now over fifty years since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1970 and women still face barriers to receiving equal pay in the workplace.  In 2021, the Office for National Statistics reported a gender pay gap figure of 15.4 % across all jobs.

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is the percentage difference between average hourly earnings for all men and women in a company, industry sector or across the country.  It is a way of assessing the extent to which employers fail to pay women the same rate of pay that a man would get for the job. Obviously, it may differ according to the industry.

What is the gender pay discrimination?

Pay discrimination is the failure by employers to pay women the same as men for either like work (or broadly similar work), or work of equal value as defined as equivalent under a job evaluation study. This is an entitlement to equal pay with equality of terms protected in employment law under the Equality Act 2010.

Not allowing equal pay in the workplace can lead to paying poverty and pension poverty for women who are often in single-parent families, which is clearly unfair.

Why does pay discrimination affect so many women?

Studies have shown that women undertake a lot of unpaid and historically unacknowledged work in the home such as being the primary carers for children as well as being responsible for cleaning and cooking.  Women are usually the ones who are obligated to work part-time or take career breaks to look after children or to care for other family members who are elderly or unwell. Over time, this ultimately affects their earnings potential and access to bonuses or other work incentives.

Even if there are pay secrecy clauses in a contract of employment, employees are still able to check if they are getting the equivalent pay for doing the same job. Equal pay claims often receive a lot of press coverage which can potentially damage the reputation of a business. Employers should therefore consider the following points to ensure that employees are fairly paid in accordance with the skills and abilities required to do the job.

How to avoid gender pay discrimination in the workplace

  1. Institute an equal pay policy.
  1. Ensure that job descriptions are up to date.
  1. Ensure that men and women who do the same job have the same job titles.
  1. Ensure that there are regular job evaluations which include benchmarking with industry standards.
  1. Be fair and consistent when deciding on pay rates based on the level of experience, skills and abilities required for the job.
  1. Have one pay structure for the business and limit who can decide on the pay of new staff.
  1. Ensure managers who are responsible for recruitment receive training in equality, diversity, and unconscious bias.
  1. Ensure that there is a fair and transparent process of recruitment and that the salary for the job is advertised on the job advert.
  1. Review pay data to ensure that the situation is regularly monitored and that any differences in pay are kept under review.

Further suggestions can be found on the ACAS website.

Equal pay claims can affect the reputation of a business and can also be expensive as claims can be made for a pay difference that goes back six years. Employers can avoid pay claims by treating employees fairly and adopting a fair and consistent approach to equal pay for equal work. Feel free to contact our solicitors for expert advice if you are confronted with pay discrimination issues in your place of work.

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