Blog: ‘Equal value’ claims are where your risks lie

Luke Menzies, Director and Specialist Employment Lawyer at Menzies Law

Whether you’re now a proper Gender Pay Gap (GPG) ‘geek’ and are all ready to report your GPG data, confident that you’ve crunched the right numbers, or you’ve not even starting thinking about your GPG, your immediate next step once you’ve reported and published your figures ought to be the same. And that’s digging down to find out why you’ve got a GPG and where your equal pay risks may lie.

While it’s important to emphasise that having a GPG doesn’t automatically mean that you have any risk of any staff making an equal pay claim, I’m willing to bet that every single organisation of 250+ staff will have at least a few thousand – if not a few hundred thousand – pounds worth of equal pay risk. Sometimes it may be obvious, but often not for the uninitiated.

Where your legal risks lie

Equal pay risks don’t only arise between two people of the opposite sex doing the very same job. No manager tends to allow such obviously unfair or sexist pay practices nowadays.  The vast majority of equal pay cases reported over the years actually involve two or more people doing different jobs that are simply of equal value to each other.

That’s why I never get tired of (slightly mischievously) pointing out the likely ‘equal value’ comparisons between HR team roles and Finance team roles – usually proving grins on many HR faces, but quite rightly too. And it’s also why all the biggest equal pay claims over the years have involved different roles, such as the infamous ‘dinner ladies’ versus ‘dustmen’ comparisons that have cost local authorities so much in back pay, or the current claims against ASDA that might be valued up to £100 million.

The risk in similar job titles

When our Pay & Reward team are conducting an Equal Pay Audit for a client, an important way that we slice the pay data is to look across all those in your organisation with similar job titles.  For example, everyone with the word “Manager”, “Officer” or “Administrator”, no matter what they do and in which department or site they sit.  And of course for colleges it’s also every “Lecturer”, “Assessor”  and “Technician”.

There’s enormous scope for one “Officer”, for example, feeling aggrieved because somewhere else in the organisation there’s another “Officer” who is the other gender and may be getting paid more. And the chances are they are.  But can you immediately explain the whole pay difference?  And would your explanation be robust enough to stand up to the cut and thrust of cross-examination by a barrister in an Employment Tribunal hearing?

It’s worth thinking about.

If you’d like any help or just a free chat on anything to do with the Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay, including what you should be doing once you know what your gap is, do give me a call on 0117 325 0921 or email me at .

Luke Menzies

 

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