The Asda Shop Workers equal pay battle (31 January 2019), is being called a landmark case in terms of predominately female shop workers winning the right to equal pay with predominately male warehouse workers.

But equal pay disputes have been going on since the days of the striking Ford sewing machinists back in 1968. which was widely credited as a catalyst for the Equal Pay Act which came into effect two years later.

Yet the Equal Pay Act is not black and white in terms of the same job for the same pay, there have been many disputes about the type of work done, levels of responsibility and bonuses paid to different groups of workers.

Equal pay claims can be very costly, Birmingham City Council revealed in 2012 that it would have to pay at least £757 m to settle equal pay claims mainly bought by women who missed out on bonuses. Staff took their case to the Supreme Court and the City Council would have saved a lot of money if it had it listened and taken action earlier.

One way of checking if you are complying with the law is to undertake an equal pay audit. This involves comparing the pay of men and women doing similar or equivalent work of equal value in the organisation, and broadly has three main purposes:

  1. To identify any difference in pay between men and women doing equal work
  2. To investigate the causes of any differences in pay between men and women doing equal work
  3. To eliminate instances of unequal pay that cannot be justified

An equal pay audit is not just a data collecting exercise. It’s an extensive process that requires companywide commitment, careful consideration and planning. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has set out five steps to conducting an equal pay audit:

Step 1: deciding the scope

Step 2: determining where men and women are doing equal work

Step 3: collecting pay data

Step 4: causes of gender pay differences

Step 5: developing an action plan

Further information as well as fact sheets can be downloaded from The Equality and Human Rights Commission.

One thing which is clear is that the spotlight continues to shine on the areas of equality and disparity.  With this in mind, companies should prepare for increased transparency and wider reporting.