The law states that men and women are entitled to equal pay where they are doing the same work, or, in some cases, different types of work, but which are considered equivalent. These are categorised as:
- 'like work' – the same, or broadly similar work;
- 'work rated as equivalent' – different work, but where the jobs have been rated as equivalent under a job evaluation scheme; and
- 'work of equal value' – different work, but which could be rated as equivalent if there had been a job evaluation scheme.
In order to make a claim you need to find a person of the opposite sex, called a 'comparator', who is being paid more than you and who works in the same establishment.
Claims have to be made to the employment tribunal within six months. Like all other tribunal claims, a fee must now be paid in order to bring an equal pay claim in the employment tribunal. Equal pay claims usually take the form of multi-claimant litigation, where a decision affects the pay of many employees who share the same terms and conditions. There are special arrangements in the tribunal fee rules for 'multi-party' claims.
Speak to your trade union rep to find out about employment tribunal fees. Some unions have put arrangements in place to loan members the fee (subject to conditions such as the strength of the claim), to be repaid if the claim is successful.
The tribunal rules changed in an important respect in April 2014, with the introduction of Acas Early Conciliation. It is no longer possible to make a claim in the employment tribunal – including a claim for equal pay – unless you have first contacted Acas to consider conciliation (i.e. settlement) of your claim.
You should contact Acas as soon as you think you might want to bring a tribunal claim. In any event, you must initiate the Acas early conciliation process before the time limit for bringing your tribunal claim has run out.
You will not be able to issue your tribunal claim without an Early Conciliation Certificate supplied by Acas.
Time limits in the employment tribunal are strict. If you miss the six month time limit for your equal pay claim, the tribunal will not be allowed to consider it.
For more information about bringing a tribunal claim, see our separate section on Enforcing your Rights.