I have a complaint about my rate of pay. How can I pursue it?

If your pay is determined through collective pay bargaining between your union and your employer, the rate of pay will be the result of a negotiated pay settlement. Many public sector workers have been subjected to pay freezes and below-inflation pay increases since the start of the economic downturn.

If the basis of your complaint is that men (or women) are paid differently for doing the same work, see our sections on Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination for more guidance.

If you work for a public body such as a local authority, it is worth remembering that your employer owes a formal statutory duty – known as the Public Sector Equality Duty – to have "due regard" to the need to eliminate discrimination when carrying out their functions – including, for example, when deciding the terms on which private providers will be commissioned to provide services. Unions are experts on the public sector equality duty. You can find out more about it on the website of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

If the basis of your complaint is that you are not being paid the National Minimum Wage, see our section on the minimum wage and how to claim it.

If your employer does not recognise a union, it is likely that your pay will have been set by the employer alone. In which case, speak to your manager, informally at first, about your rate of pay and the reasons why it has been set as this level.

If you still feel that you are not being paid a correct rate and your manager refuses to deal with the issue, you could consider raising a formal grievance, following your organisation's grievance procedure.

If this still does not resolve matters, you may want to consider bringing a tribunal claim. But, seek legal advice first, as you will need to be sure you have a legal right to higher pay before making your claim. Any claim must be brought promptly and within the specified time limit.

Where a large number of workers are all being paid less than their legal entitlement, a group claim can sometimes be brought in the employment tribunal or the civil courts. This kind of claim is often coordinated by a trade union, and sometimes a positive outcome can benefit hundreds or even thousands of workers.

For more information on bringing a claim in the employment tribunal, see our section on Enforcing your Rights.

In practice, the best way to secure decent pay for most workers is through collective bargaining by a recognised union. Collective bargaining can only take place if a union is recognised where you work. You can find out more about the process of building union membership and securing union recognition on our Union Finder page. The more workers that join the union, the stronger the case for recognition will be, even if your employer objects, and the stronger the union’s voice will be when it comes to negotiating better pay and other terms and conditions.

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.