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

employees equal pay

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, Head of Dispute Resolution & Accredited Mediator

Jane is a Partner based in the Guildford office and she is also Head of the Dispute Resolution team here at Hart Brown. Jane specialises...

Jane Crosby -Head of Dispute Resolution

Partner, Head of Dispute Resolution & Accredited Mediator

Jane Crosby

Jane is a Partner based in the Guildford office and she is also Head of the Dispute Resolution team here at Hart Brown. Jane specialises in employment Law and commercial litigation and brings more than 15 years' experience to her role.

Prior to entering the legal profession, Jane was employed in the aviation industry. This experience is appreciated by many of Jane's clients who note that she is able to take a commercial and pragmatic approach to any legal issue that they face.

Jane acts for a wide range of individuals and businesses and her areas of specialism include aviation, property related industries and IT. Jane regularly advises on aspects of employment law, such as settlement agreements, employment contracts, policies and procedures, redundancies, equal pay, data protection, issues arising from TUPE and reorganisations, the calculation of holiday pay, bonus and commission payments, disciplinary and grievance issues, dismissal and termination issues, the protection of confidential information and the enforcement of restrictive covenants. Jane gets involved in GDPR training for her clients and she is able to deliver tailored employment law training sessions upon request.

As a commercial litigation lawyer, Jane also deals in shareholder and directors disputes, commercial contract disputes and the enforcement of restrictive covenants.

Jane has been involved in successful high value commercial litigation for clients in the High Courts, she is an accredited mediator and she is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association.

Jane is often asked to write for a number of well known publications, including The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Week and she has been interviewed on BBC Radio 4.

Here is small selection of the feedback that Jane has received:

“Jane, I cannot sincerely thank you enough for your wise counsel and am delighted to have made your acquaintance. If I am blessed with a new position somewhere I will hand over my contract in the first instance to you. Likewise, any of my friends, peers, romans and countrymen wanting advice, I will point them in your direction.”

“Jane, you have been most resilient on my behalf for which I sincerely thank you for all your endeavours. I have a tremendous working relationship with Hart Brown and you have undoubtedly compounded this further."

“I appreciated the clarity of advice given at a stressful time”.

“A sensitive and highly professional approach and efficient work in the interests of the client”.

“Your advice, conduct and assistance have been indeed outstanding and very professional but also – and most importantly – very humane”.