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Mind the Gap? What to do if You Think You’re Getting Paid Less Than Your Male Colleagues

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For years women have been fighting for Equal Pay, but according to the Office of National Statistics, men still earn almost 20 per cent more than their female colleagues.  

When figures from the BBC were released in 2017, it showed that inequality still exists right at the top. Just two of the 14 best paid people were women and Claudia Winkleman, the highest paid female, took home between £450,000 and £499,999 last year, compared to the £2.2million salary of top earner Chris Evans.

Some of the most well-known female faces, including Emily Maitlis, Victoria Derbyshire and Clare Balding, wrote to bosses demanding action over the pay disparity. Dubbed the ‘BBC effect’, females in other organisations began to ask questions too.

But without the transparency like that from the BBC, how are women expected to work out if their employer is treating them fairly?  

The law on this is relatively straightforward: equal pay for equal work, according to the Equal Pay Act 1970, superseded by the Equality Act 2010. If a female employee shows she has been underpaid for doing the same work as a male colleague simply because of her gender, then she will be entitled to the difference between those rates. This can be backdated with interest for up to six years.    

If you’re concerned and feel comfortable doing so, ask male colleagues what they earn. It’s unlawful to prevent employees from discussing pay for the purposes of finding out if there is discrimination, even if there is a secrecy clause in their employment contract.

Find out who makes the decisions about pay and bonuses and ask what influences it – factors like qualifications, experience, performance targets or length of service may all play a part.

Do some research on your competitors and what they pay people in similar roles to yours.   

Every April, from 2018, employers in the private and voluntary sectors with more than 250 workers have to publish six sets of statistics annually which relate to the pay of men and women in the organisation. These are the mean and median gender pay gap, the mean and median bonus, the proportion of men and women receiving a bonus and the proportion of male and female workers within the business broken down into four pay quartiles (ie. the gender spread from highest to lowest pay).  

You can request a copy of these from your employer and although they may not give you a full picture, it may be enough for you to take your concerns to HR. For example, if mainly men are in the upper pay quartiles and women in the lower it could be indicative of a glass ceiling.

If you feel strongly enough you can raise a complaint or grievance internally, or externally by notifying ACAS or seeking advice from an employment lawyer.

While the introduction of gender pay gap reporting is a step in the right direction, employers won’t have to do an equal pay audit or detail what action they are taking, if any, to address the inequality and they also won’t be punished if they don’t comply.

For a consultation with an employment law specialist, call Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help.

Juliette Franklin is a Principal Lawyer specialising in employment law at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Cardiff.


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