Equal Value?

29 Oct

Equal pay has a habit of creeping up on you and then jumping out when you least expect it. ASDA now know that feeling as they prepare to defend themselves against multiple claims of pay inequality going back six years. The reason most employers do not see these things coming is due to the ‘equal value’ claim. Unlike claims for ‘like work’ or ‘work rated as equivalent’ an equal value claim is not so obvious.

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Equal pay has a habit of creeping up on you and then jumping out when you least expect it. ASDA now know that feeling as they prepare to defend themselves against multiple claims of pay inequality going back six years. The reason most employers do not see these things coming is due to the ‘equal value’ claim. Unlike claims for ‘like work’ or ‘work rated as equivalent’ an equal value claim is not so obvious.

In the ASDA claims the shop workers are comparing themselves with warehouse workers. The shop workers are predominantly female and the warehouse workers are predominantly male. They do what on the face of it appear to be different jobs but as local authorities have found to their cost just because you are dinner lady does not mean that you cannot compare yourself with a refuse collector or gardener and get pay parity.

Very different types of jobs can turn out to be of equal worth or value when analysed in terms of the demands made on the employee. The golden rule is not to assume that jobs that are of different types (e.g. manual and administrative) cannot be of equal value.

So how is ‘equal value’ measured? This can involve an expert being instructed to actually assess the jobs being compared (put a value on the jobs) which will involve a Stage 2 & 3 hearing. In some cases the Tribunal themselves may feel able to carry out the assessment and then the matter goes straight to a Stage 3 hearing where the issue is determined. The process is protracted and can take years to be resolved.

This type of claim can be avoided by employers having carried out a proper job evaluation study (JES). A JES is a complete defence to an equal value claim. This will involve measuring all the significant features of jobs typically undertaken by women, (for example, interpersonal skills, manual dexterity, responsibilities for customers, clients or members of the public) as well as those of jobs done by men (for example managerial decision making, physical effort, adverse working conditions). Do not fall into to the trap of stereotyping some kinds of work that are traditionally done by women as being of low value, or involving less skill or effort or decision-making than jobs that have traditionally been done by men.

There are some good sources of information about equal pay and how to avoid claims on the internet. I would suggest a look at the Code (link below) but if this does not answer your questions or you still have concerns then you might want to seek professional assistance on the subject.

http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/publication_pdf/equalpaycode.pdf


Peter D

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