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HR Advice - Equal Pay
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By Eve Clennell

We have recently been subject to an equal pay claim and lost. To be honest, it was not something that we had ever addressed in the past and I did not realise I was flouting the law. What can we do to prevent any future claims?
This is a subject that has really gained momentum over the last few months. The media seem to be focusing on the whole issue of equality, and equal pay comes under this umbrella. In fact, I was recently asked by Southern FM to contribute to a live debate on the subject of equal pay and whether in my experience as a HR professional, did I think that women were paid less than men for the same job.
Not surprisingly, against this backdrop of increased awareness through the media, equal pay claims have increased rapidly in recent years. According to the Tribunals Service, equal pay claims increased from 8,229 claims in 2004/2005 to 44,013 claims in 2006/2007. As you can imagine, rarely does a week go by when an employer does not ask me for specific qualified guidance on this subject.
There will be employers reading this column who have not gone through the experience of dealing with an equal pay claim, so, let me share a few of the basics before answering your question.
In order to bring an equal pay claim, an individual must choose a person of the opposite sex as their comparator. The individual must then show that the comparator is:
  • Employed on 'like work', or
  • Employed on 'work rated as equivalent' under an analytical job evaluation study, or
  • Employed on work of 'equal value'.
So how do you as an employer prevent equal pay claims?
Well firstly, you should carry out an equal pay review so that you can elicit comprehensive information on how your pay and benefit systems operate and the effect that these systems have on people of a particular sex. These reviews can also operate as a risk management tool to highlight areas of for example race, religion, disability or age discrimination. They are incredibly useful in establishing best practice for your organisation as well as preventing a tribunal claim. Bear in mind that ignorance of the law is no defence. Any review should go beyond merely wages and salary. It needs to cover all elements of the pay and benefits package that you offer employees, including allowances, commission payments, bonuses, holidays, sick pay, pensions, shift patterns and any other benefits.
If any patterns of pay inequalities are discovered as part of such a review, you must take all reasonable steps to remove them.
This is a complex area and I am aware that I have only covered the basics. I can help you with accurate guidance and I can undertake the reviews for you. Often as an employer, the issue lies in knowing where to start and how to implement the law. I have extensive hands on experience conducting equal pay audits. Hopefully, you will never be in this position again!
You really do need to gain professional advice to ensure that you are fully compliant with the current legislation. TUPE is an area that I specialise in so, If you need further advice and practical help from Eden Hr Consulting, please contact me.

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