100 years on - Tips for employees to resolve issues of equal pay

Employment | 19th February 2018

It is the 100th year anniversary since women fought for the right to vote and they did literally fight for this right often having to resort to direct action to get their point across. Women were imprisoned and sides were polarised. Those particular women were brave, strong and prepared to sacrifice their freedom for what they believed in. What have we learned since that struggle, and has this translated to equal rights in the workplace?

The issue of equal pay in the workplace has been recently highlighted again by over 200,000 Tesco female employees who are bringing one of the largest equal pay claims in the UK, and BBC women presenter’s battle to be paid at an equal rate to their male counterparts.

At present the BBC women’s claims are likely to be discussed/ resolved in the workplace and hopefully will lead to a resolution between the parties. However Tesco employees are dealing with these issues now through the Tribunals, with Tesco potentially facing a £4 billion pay out.

Many employees may be wondering what to do if they discover they are being paid less than their male colleagues whilst, at the same time, maintain a harmonious working relationship if they do raise this issue.

Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Obtain evidence about the market rate for your job and speak to female colleagues who may be able to help you or join you in raising this issue so you are not alone.
  2. Speak to a male colleague who is doing the same job and ask them if they are willing to disclose how much they are being paid. Employers may say that pay rates are confidential but it is not unlawful to talk about salaries.
  3. If you are unable to obtain the information informally from a colleague willing to disclose this information, then you could ask your employer.
  4. Speak to your employer informally to find out if there is a reason why a male colleague is being paid more than you. An employer may have a legitimate reason for a different pay structure such as performance or market rates for the job when the person was recruited so it is important to check.
  5. If you are unable to resolve the matter informally then you can raise a formal grievance setting out why you believe you should be paid the same as your male counterpart. Ask for your employers formal grievance policy.
  6. Consider some form of mediation service if you are unable to resolve the matter through a formal grievance process.
  7. The last resort is an employment tribunal claim. Tesco employees are likely to have the backing of their union, but you can seek help through ACAS, your trade union, or a Solicitor.

Women hopefully do not have to be imprisoned to obtain equal pay as the law has been in place since the 1970’s. It is important for business to attempt to reach a resolution because a happy fair working environment is a more productive working environment.


This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues 

Jane Crosby

Partner, Dispute Resolution

Jane specialises in commercial litigation and employment law acting for both employers and employees in both contentious and non-contentious matters. ...