Overcoming the gender pay gap: what 2017 will bring.

Having completed their studies of Employment Law at Level 6, Nicholl Innes and Pippy Shepherd have produced a blog post looking at one of the topical employment issues from 2016 with a forecast of what 2017 will bring for employees:

What is equal pay and why does it matter?

Equal pay was first introduced by the then EEC and refers to the pay that men and women in the same employment performing equal work must receive. This pay must be equal and the work must be like work, work rated as equivalent under a job evaluation study, or work found to be of equal value in terms of effort, skill or decision making. The current law exists within the Equality Act 2010 and an employee can rely on this if they wish to bring an equal pay dispute.

Although equal pay has developed significantly over the past few decades, recent figures suggest that women still earn 29.2% less than their male counterparts per hour. This brings into question the effectiveness of the 2010 Act, and demonstrates the continuous need for protection in this area of law.

What has 2016 bought us?

In late 2016, an employment tribunal ruled that female employees at a leading supermarket Asda, who mainly work at check-outs or stacking shelves, can compare themselves to higher paid men who work at warehouses.  From this decision over 9,500 women currently working as Asda won a step forward in their battle for equal pay. This ruling shows that pay gaps between genders are continuing to happen in today’s society, and this case therefore further questions the effectiveness of the 2010 Act.


Figures show that prior to the ruling the difference in pay between the predominately female staff who work in store, and the mainly male staff who work in the distribution centres, was between £1-£3 an hour. Asda therefore, if the claims are successful, could be paying out more than £100m in back dated pay from 2002, and pay rises may be required in the future.

Not only will a successful claim be a detriment to Asda but also it will provide implications on other supermarket who also have employees bringing claims for equal pay.

Even more recently, a Network Rail employee successfully bought an action against their employer when they discovered they were being paid 37% less than their male counterpart. The employee was awarded £75,000, and the successful outcome suggest that many more equal pay claims will be brought in the future.

What is to come?

It is therefore clear that despite the 2010 Act, there are still issues with the gender pay gap. The Equality Act (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017, coming into effect from April this year, will impose an obligation on employers with 250 or more employees to report the overall pay gap between their male and female staff.  The desired effect of this is to make employers more aware of any discrepancies in their pay patterns.

Over the course of the coming year, it will become apparent whether or not these regulations will have the desired effect or whether more legislation is needed to ensure equality in pay.


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