Employers Encouraged to Pre-empt Equal Pay Claims with Early Measures


  • Half of workers are set to demand a pay rise
  • A third of employees are prepared to launch equal pay claims
Employers could be in for a barrage of equal pay claims when the government orders companies to publish their gender pay gap this coming spring. Currently, only 32% of women believe they are paid the same as their male colleagues for equal work, a survey shows.

Equality in the workplace

Companies with more than 250 employees will soon have to publish any differences in the average pay between male and female employees doing equivalent work.

Simpson Millar solicitors has found that almost 50% of workers are prepped to ask for a pay rise if they discover that they are paid less than their colleagues for equal work.

More worryingly perhaps, 33% of workers indicated that they would go straight to launching an equal pay claim – a figure which jumps to 37% amongst the 45-54 age group. Those findings chime with the firm's recent review of 470 employment cases which found that the average age of claimants was 48.

Simpson Millar says employers would be wise to pre-empt the new requirements by beginning full-scale pay audits now. "Sadly but unsurprisingly, our survey found that just 32% of female employees believe men and women are paid the same for equal work in their organisation.

"There is still a wide gender pay gap in Britain and bringing women's salaries in line with men's for equal work will take years, if not decades. But one thing is for certain; requests for pay adjustments are likely to increase once workers – and women in particular – realise their pay falls short of that received by their male colleagues for equal work."

Simpson Millar's national survey asked 1,000 people from a cross-section of the UK workforce:

If your employer published details of salaries across the business, and you discovered that you earned less than a colleague of the opposite sex in the same job, would you:
Ask for a pay rise 48%
Get advice on bring an equal pay claim 33%
Do nothing 9%
Resign 5%
Other 5%

The new publishing requirement marks a first, important step in bringing about cultural change within the workplace. Encouraging employers to be transparent around pay issues is also necessary if the new measures are to have the desired impact, she says: "Employers have so far been very successful in instilling a culture of pay secrecy in the workplace, which has enabled the gender pay gap to remain unaddressed for decades. I am hoping the new requirement for employers to publish their gender pay gap will be a positive move toward rectifying that situation."

Understanding how to compare one job with another is key but, the reason for the difference in pay is crucial to a successful claim. "It's not enough to show that you are paid less than a male colleague in a comparable role; you must also satisfy a Tribunal that the difference in pay is tainted by gender rather than some other material factor."

The prospect of having to fork out £1,200 before the Tribunal can hear an equal pay claim will be daunting for many, not least single working mothers. "Even where the evidence of pay inequality is overwhelming, the costly fees regime effectively prevents many meritorious claims from being pursued,".

Simpson Millar urges employers to get ahead of the game by undertaking pay audits. "This will send out a positive message to staff. The knowledge that a full and transparent review is being carried out with a view to correcting the situation will reassure many employees who might otherwise decide to launch an equal pay claim. Those who conduct early evaluation programmes will no doubt face fewer claims."

We recognise that the Government needs to do more. "Employers should be transparent about what they pay staff and individual employees ought to be free to ask what named colleagues earn, and what someone in their role previously was paid. Only with 100% transparency and accountability can we close the gender pay gap for good."

Full Gender Breakdown

Q: Do you think men and women are paid the same for equal work in your organisation?
  Total Men Women
Yes 40% 48% 32%
No 28% 22% 34%
Don't know 32% 30% 34%

Regional Differences

Q: Do you think men and women are paid the same for equal work in your organisation?
  East Midlands East Anglia London North East North West
Yes 35% 28% 43% 48% 40%
No 33% 31% 37% 22% 25%
Don't know 32% 41% 20% 30% 35%
  South East South West Wales West Midlands Yorkshire & Humber
Yes 40% 40% 41% 39% 38%
No 28% 33% 24% 22% 29%
Don't know 32% 27% 36% 39% 33%

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