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Well hello there! It’s me – Rob Tice – freshly returned from a wonderful two week holiday.

And what a two weeks, well 15 days to be exact, we had!  It was a bit of a magical mystery tour (yes, Emma was behind it!)  First stop Belgium for a fantastic week of pools, beaches and water slides – all in the glorious sunshine.  Back for a mini-break in Maidstone (THE obvious choice for a mini break with the family right?!)  This was to show our girls where I grew up for 2 years as a youngster and whilst it was lovely, it did make me feel rather old.

Our final stop was Looe in Cornwall, which is the Tice family’s ultimate favourite holiday destination.  Needless to say we got our beach fix, spending almost every day on the beach, come rain or shine. We also ate our own body weight in Cornish pasties and ice cream and didn’t get home until after 11pm on Saturday, so we really did max it out!

It was great to have some quality time away with the family, to relax, recharge and enjoy each other – this is something that here at Precept, we advocate to all our staff and Emma and I certainly lead from the front….so a HUGE thank you to the guys who manned the fort for us – we really do have the best people here at Precept.

Unfortunately, not every day can be a holiday and so it’s time for me to retrieve my head from the beach and get it back into the office!

Whilst we were away, we managed to catch the Women’s football World Cup final – and what a final it was! The Lionesses did us proud didn’t they? Obviously, as a seasoned employment lawyer, my head is always very much in the “game” so to speak – the game of employment and HR. And actually, I think there were a couple of key takeaways from the women’s world cup this year.

Putting aside the actions of some FIFA representatives, one of the big things to come from the women’s world cup was a discussion around equal pay. The prize pot for the women’s world cup this year was $110 million – significantly less than the $440 million awarded at the men’s world cup in Qatar in 2022 (not every sport can be as progressive as tennis – thanks Billie Jean!)

There are definitely lots of factors influencing pay and prize money in football that might not always come into play in your everyday workplace, but that’s not to say that some of the principles around equal pay aren’t the same and now seems like a good time to refresh yourselves of the relevant rules and regulations.

Equal pay for equal work

It’s a legal requirement (under Chapter 3 of the Equality Act 2010) that men and women must get equal pay for doing equal work. Remember! We aren’t talking about gender pay gap reporting here – the duty to ensure you’re giving equal pay for equal work applies to all employers!

What is equal work?

I hear you ask. Well, it’s either:

  • Like work – where the work is broadly similar in nature and any differences are not of practical importance.
  • Work rated as equivalent – this requires an assessment of the work, usually using a job evaluation scheme. Work tends to be equivalent because the level of skill, responsibility and effort needed to do the work are equivalent.
  • Work of equal value – this is where work is not similar but is of equal value. The value of the work will be assessed by reference to things like decision making, skill, effort, demands or responsibility.

What if there’s some other reason women are paid less?

Well, there are some circumstances where equal work doesn’t always require equal pay. Where there is reason unrelated to gender as to why there is a difference in pay, employers might have a defence to equal pay claims. This is commonly referred to as the “material factor defence”. Examples of “material factors” which might justify a difference in pay might include geographical factors, level of seniority or length of service.

What if there’s a claim?

Employees can bring claims for breach of the equal pay provisions. To do so, there needs to be an actual comparator of the opposite gender. This can be an existing or previous employee, as long as they are (or were) working in the same employment. There can be more than one comparator as well, which increases the chances of a successful claim.

What can we do about all of this?

Well, it’s tricky! It goes without saying you should be giving equal pay for equal work. If you’re not sure about whether you’re already doing that, an audit is probably a good starting point – that way you can assess whether you’re paying people properly or whether you’re justified in paying people at different levels. If not, you’re going to have to look at being proactive and taking steps to address pay imbalances fairly quickly.

Equal pay claims can be costly and time consuming to defend and they can ultimately result in backpay being awarded for up to 6 years (crikey!) Pretty important to get this right then isn’t it? As always, your friendly local employment law heroes – Precept – are here to help so give us a call if you’re unsure!