Employers warned over equal pay breaches - Palmers Solicitors

Employers warned over equal pay breaches

Employers have been warned that they have “no excuse” for paying female employees less than their male colleagues.

New regulations took effect on 1 October 2014 that mean businesses found to have breached equal pay law at an employment tribunal hearing will have to submit an equal pay audit to the tribunal that analyses their pay structures and include a plan to avoid equal pay breaches occurring or continuing. Businesses may also be required to publish the audit findings.

Failure to comply with the audit requirement could result in a penalty of up to £5,000 and further penalties of up to £5,000 a time if the business continues to fail to produce the audit, with no limit to the number of penalties which can be raised in this respect.

Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson said: “Nearly 40 years on from the Equal Pay Act, there is simply no excuse for employers who pay people less because of their gender. These new rules mean that companies who break the law on equal pay will be forced to evaluate their pay structures to prevent further violations”.

Businesses that have less than ten staff or those that are less than 12 months old will be excluded from the regulations.

There are also other exceptions to the requirement to carry out an audit, including when it is clear to the tribunal the breach was a one-off and no action is required to avoid future breaches or where the tribunal believes the disadvantages of carrying out the audit outweigh the advantages.

Lara Murray, associate solicitor in Palmers’ Employment Law team, said: “The law requires employers to treat men and women equally in their employment terms and conditions if they are employed to do work that is the same or broadly similar or which is of equal value in terms of effort, skill or decision-making.

“An employee who believes they are not receiving equal pay can write to their employer asking for information that will clarify if there is a pay difference and if a difference exists, what the reason for this is.

“If the employee and employer cannot resolve the problem informally or through a formal grievance procedure, they can take the case to an employment tribunal, either while still working in the job or up to six months afterwards.

“We can provide expert legal advice to employees to establish whether they have a case to pursue a claim for equal pay and represent them at employment tribunals. For more information, please contact our Employment Law team.”