I am paid less than someone of the opposite sex who is doing the same job as I am. Is this lawful?

It is unlawful for your employer to discriminate against you on the grounds of your sex by paying you less than a member of the opposite sex (where both of you are doing 'like work', 'work rated as equivalent' or 'work of equal value'). This applies to all contractual benefits such as salary, overtime rates, bonuses and other payments.

However, where there is a 'genuine material difference', unequal pay can be permissible.

For example, it can be lawful to pay workers different rates to reflect different qualifications, experience or years of service, or for carrying out different or extra tasks.

Claims for equal pay are usually brought in the employment tribunal. However, since an equal pay claim is based on the employment contract, this kind of claim can also be brought in the civil courts.

Where the claim is made in the employment tribunal, it must be brought within six months. The time limit is much longer where the claim is brought in the civil courts.

Equal pay claims usually take the form of ‘group’ or multi-claimant litigation, often coordinated by the legal department of a trade union. The final ruling in the litigation affects the pay of many employees who share the same terms and conditions.

Before any claim can be brought in the employment tribunal, you must submit an Acas Early Conciliation Notification Form to Acas.

For general information on bringing a tribunal claim, including information about Acas early conciliation, see our section on Enforcing your Rights.

Time limits in the employment tribunal are strict. If you miss the six-month time limit for your equal pay claim, the employment tribunal will not be allowed to consider it.

For more information, see the TUC’s webpage on Equal Pay.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.