An article in the Telegraph (23.7.2014) reports that Baroness Stowell, the Leader of the House of Lords, will be paid less than her male predecessor. Following protests, David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said the Conservative Party would make up the difference between Lady Stowell's £78,891 annual salary and the £101,038 earned by her predecessor Lord Hill.
This was done to avoid breaching the limit on numbers of full members around the famous table at 10 Downing Street after it was decided to keep William Hague in the Cabinet as Leader of the House of Commons. However Lady Stowell today rejected the extra cash, saying that she believes her salary should come only from public funds, in order to avoid any appearance of potential conflicts of interest. In a letter to Conservative peers on Tuesday, Mr Cameron attempted to put matters right by saying he would restore the Leader of the Lords to full Cabinet membership "at the earliest opportunity", and will do so immediately after the 2015 general election if he remains Prime Minister.
So what can Employers do to avoid equal pay claims?
The Equality Act 2010 states that Employers must give men and women equal treatment in the terms and conditions of their employment contract if they are employed to do:
• 'Like work' - work that is the same or broadly similar
• Work rated as equivalent under a job evaluation study
• Work found to be of equal value in terms of effort, skill or decision making
Employees can compare any terms in the contract of employment with the equivalent terms in a comparators contract. A comparator is an Employee of the opposite sex working for the same employer, doing like work of equal value. However, an employer may defend a claim if they show the reason for the difference is due to a genuine factor and not based on the sex of the Employee.
Employees are also entitled to know how their pay is made up. For example, if there is a bonus system, everyone should know how to earn bonuses and how they are calculated.
It is unlawful to prevent Employees from having discussions to establish if there are differences in pay. However, an employer can require their Employees to keep pay rates confidential from people outside of the workplace.
The equal terms can cover all aspects of pay and benefits, including:
• Basic pay
• Overtime rates
• Performance related benefits
• Hours of work
• Access to pension schemes
• Non monetary terms
• Annual leave entitlements.
An Employee who thinks they are not receiving equal pay can write to their employer asking for information that will help them establish whether there is a pay difference and if so the reasons for the difference. They can use the questionnaire found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/equality-of-terms-equal-pay-complaints-questionnaire
If an Employee cannot resolve the problem informally or through the formal grievance procedure, they may complain to an employment tribunal under the Equality Act 2010 while still working in the job or up to six months after leaving the employment to which your claim relates.