What to do when you feel like you’re being underpaid at work, according to a lawyer

You are not entitled to the same salary as colleagues as a matter of course

Matt Gingell@MattGingell1
Tuesday 01 August 2017 09:52
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In many cases employees will be doing different jobs to their colleagues, but it might be possible in certain cases to argue that the jobs are of equal value
In many cases employees will be doing different jobs to their colleagues, but it might be possible in certain cases to argue that the jobs are of equal value

The BBC announced earnings for its top stars on Wednesday, showing a large disparity between the men and the women.

Here's what you should know if you suspect you might be getting short-changed when it comes to your salary compared to your colleagues pay.

No specific right to the same pay as colleagues

The first thing to be aware of is that you are not entitled to the same salary as colleagues as a matter of course. The law protects employees from being discriminated against on the grounds of certain protected characteristics including sex, race and age - and there is also equal protection for contractual pay between the sexes. However, if, say, two men are doing a similar job for an organisation and getting paid differently - and there is no discrimination - it would be difficult for the man being paid less to seek legal redress.

Equal pay

Unequal treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment is of course unlawful. Our equality legislation provides that employers must give men and women equal pay if they are employed on equal work, that is, like work, work rated as equivalent or work of equal value. An employer can defend an equal pay claim by showing that the difference in contractual terms is due to a material factor which is neither directly nor indirectly sex discriminatory. Material factor examples could include things such as seniority, length of service and past performance.

In many cases employees will be doing different jobs to their colleagues, but it might be possible in certain cases to argue that the jobs are of equal value.

How about comparing, for example, Chris Evans and Claudia Winkleman, whose salaries have been disclosed by the BBC.

Mr Evans, who last year presented Top Gear as well as the Radio 2 breakfast show, earns between £2.2m and £2.5m whereas Ms Winkleman, Radio 2 and Strictly Come Dancing presenter, earns between £450,000 and £499,999. While they would probably not be deemed to be doing the same or similar jobs, could they be doing jobs of equal value? The number of viewers and listeners for the programmes and the frequency of the broadcasts could be factors in determining equal value.

What steps should you be taking if you believe you are being underpaid?

If you think you are being underpaid compared to colleagues there are a number of steps to consider.

It might be appropriate to raise your concerns informally with your manager or human resources.

Before considering bringing a claim, normally it would be appropriate to raise a grievance and allow your employer an opportunity to investigate your allegations. You may also be required to follow the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) early conciliation process prior to bringing a claim.

Pursuing a claim for equal pay or discrimination is not straightforward and you ought to obtain legal advice at the earliest opportunity. There are many issues to consider such as the type of claim to be brought, where to bring the claim and time limits.

Matt Gingell is a specialist employment lawyer and legal commentator. He advises businesses and individuals on all employment law related issues. He also writes articles, HR guides, and employee guides.

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