I am about to take over a company where there in a couple of roles the men are paid higher wages than women, do I keep the salary levels the same or should they be adjusted?

It is generally unlawful to pay a member of one sex less than another when they are doing equal work. It is not necessary that a man and a woman do exactly the same job – there may be some differences but pay should not be lower merely on the basis of gender. This is enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, under the equal pay provisions.

The legislation covering equal pay is cast wider than just “pay” and relates to all the terms under which employees of both sexes work.  In general, the legislation requires employers to ensure that no term of the contract is less favourable to one sex than the other.  In practical terms this means that, for example, an employer should not offer a job to a man which as a term of the contract includes six weeks’ holiday if the same job held by a woman has the benefit of seven weeks’ holiday.

As mentioned above, the roles undertaken by men and women do not have to be exactly the same. There are three different tests to apply:

  • Like work – the same or very similar work.
  • Work rated as equivalent – work which could be different in nature, but which has been giving the same banding by you or by an independent assessor
  • Work of equal value – work which could be different in nature, but which your employee claims requires a similar level of skill and ability. For instance, a female hotel cleaner who claims she ought to be paid the same rate as a male hotel porter as the skills required for the job are similar.

The only defence to inequality is that there is a material factor other than the difference of sex and which does not involve indirect sex discrimination. This could be, for example, that the work is done in different geographical locations e.g. London weighting applies or the work is done at different times of the day e.g. allowances for night shift working.

If one of the above three tests is met, and the defence does not exist, you could run into problems and potentially face an equal pay claim. An adjustment may be necessary.

Contact Peninsula online for advice on this issue, or call us on 0844 892 2772 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.