Equal Pay Hitting the Headlines Again

Published March 29 2021

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The Supreme Court has handed down a judgement in a long running equal pay case brought by shop floor workers against Asda. The shop floor workers, who are predominantly female, are arguing that they have been paid less than male workers in the distribution centre for doing work which is of ‘equal value’.

Asda disputed that the shop floor workers should be able to compare their pay with that of workers in the distribution centre. However, the Supreme Court has now ruled that those workers can be compared with one another, even if the two groups of workers are not based at the same establishment.

Whilst it is an important decision for the shop floor workers, they still have a way to go with their case – they’ve yet to prove the work they do is of equal value, and Asda is still open to argue that there is a material difference in the roles which justifies a difference in pay.

Asda is not the only big name retailer to be involved in equal pay claims, others such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s are too. With equal pay hitting the headlines once again, some employers may be wondering how the law on equal pay works. Below we take a look at some key things it can be helpful to know:

Equal Pay – Fast Facts

  • In a nutshell, the law requires men and women to be given equal pay and contractual terms for equal work (that is ‘like work’, work rated as ‘equivalent’ or work of equal value), unless the employer can show that there is a material reason for the difference which does not discriminate on the basis of sex.
  • Equal pay covers things such as basic pay, overtime rates and allowances. Employees can compare such terms in the contract of employment with the equivalent terms in a comparator’s contract. A comparator is an employee of the opposite sex working for the same employer.
  • Where an employee succeeds in an equal pay claim, a sex equality clause will be implied into the employee’s contract of employment. The effect of this is that the less favourable term(s) of their contract are replaced by the equivalent more favourable term(s) of the comparator. The tribunal or court can also order the employer to pay arrears of pay up to six years, or damages in the case of a non-pay contractual term.
  • Whilst a lot of equal pay cases have concerned claims made by women, the law provides the same protection to men.

If an employee in your organisation raises a complaint about equal pay, you should contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd for advice on the facts of your case.

If you have an employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact us as we are happy to help.