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Right to Equal Pay
Campaigners had long fought for 'the right to equal pay for equal work' but government was slow to respond.
On 7 June 1968, women at Ford Motor Company Limited's walked out because of unequal pay conditions. The women made car seat covers and as stock ran out the strike eventually resulted in a halt to all car production. At the time it was common practice for companies to pay women less than men, irrespective of the skills involved. As a result of the strike, an agreement was reached to increase the women’s rate of pay to 8% below that of men, rising to the full rate a year later. The film “Made in Dagenham” is based on those strikes (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfilms/film/made_in_dagenham).
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom was also on its way to joining the European Communities. This meant that its legislation had to be in line with the prevailing European law, namely Article 141 of the Treaty of Rome, which says that 'each Member State shall ensure that the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value is applied’.
The pressure of strike actions by women and the desire to join the EC finally saw the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1970 which outlawed any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment. The Equal Pay Act didn’t come into force until 1975, two years after the United Kingdom acceded to the EC.
The Equal Pay Act was repealed but its substantive provisions were replicated in the Equality Act 2010.
Just before the general election in March 2015 the Liberal Democrats forced through an amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill to introduce mandatory equal pay reporting for companies that employed more than 250 people. It is estimated that there are 7,000 companies in the UK that could be affected. (Compare this to the approximately 300 that have signed up to voluntary reporting). David Cameron has now publicly committed to changing the law in 2016.
Equal Pay Claims
A person can make a claim when the employer fails to give men and women equal treatment in the terms and conditions of their employment contract and where:
• the Claimant’s work is the same as or broadly similar to that of the comparator;
• the Claimant’s work is of equal value in terms of effort, skill, decision and similar demands to that of the comparator; or
• the Claimant’s work is rated the same as that of the comparator under a job evaluation study.
The equal terms can cover all aspects of contractual pay and benefits, including:
• basic pay;
• overtime rates;
• performance related benefits;
• hours of work;
• access to pension schemes;
• non-monetary terms;
• annual leave entitlements.
Any differences in non-contractual pay and benefits do not form part of an equal pay claim, but can be brought as a sex discrimination claim.
A comparator is an employee of the opposite sex working for the same employer, doing like work of equal value. It is a defence if the employer proves that the difference in pay is genuinely due to a material factor which is not the difference in gender.
From the 1st October 2014 employers who lose equal pay claims could be forced to conduct an equal pay audit and publish the results.
Time limits for claims
A claim for equal pay can cover a maximum of 6 years’ worth of difference in pay, plus interest.
An employee has 6 months (less one day) to bring an equal pay claim in the Employment Tribunals from the last date that the employee was employed under the employment contract of which they complain.
Where an employee left employment more than 6 months ago, the claim can be brought in the civil courts. This was established in a decision by the Supreme Court in Birmingham City Council (Appellant) v Abdulla and others (Respondents)  UKSC 47.
It should not make any difference to the Claimant’s case whether it is brought in the Employment Tribunal or the civil courts. However, the overall perception is that a claim brought in the Employment Tribunal may be dealt with more quickly than a claim in the civil courts.
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