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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 47600
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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I have been working as a freelance designer for the same organisation

Resolved Question:

I have been working as a freelance designer for the same organisation for 14 years. They have now offered me an employment contract, but at lower pay than my colleagues who do the same work. Is this legal? And if I sign the contract am I giving away any rights I had? Would a letter with the signed contract saying that I am still disputing the claim help? It's a trade union...
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. What claim are you disputing?

Customer:

I have been working as a freelance designer for the same organisation for 14 years. They have now offered me an employment contract, but at lower pay than my colleagues who do the same work. Is this legal? And if I sign the contract am I giving away any rights I had? Would a letter with the signed contract saying that I am still disputing the claim help? It's a trade union...

Customer:

The organisation has a pay scale system., They have put me at the bottom of the scale (ie for new employees) which means mt colleagues are at the top end of the increment (c £2000 pa more)

Customer:

Sorry I dont appear to have received an answer, although it says I should have received something?

Ben Jones :

No I haven't provided one yet

Customer:

ps if it helps, I have been treated as an employee in all that time, have 28 days holiday pay, expected to work 5 days a week, fill in timesheets, have appraisals...

Ben Jones :

The law on equal pay is frequently misunderstood. Many workers believe that there is a right to equal pay across the workforce, especially for workers that perform the same or similar jobs.


 


However, the reality is that employers are free to pay their employees whatever they want, as long as it is above the current National Minimum Wage and in accordance with the employee's contract of employment. It is not generally unlawful to pay employees doing the same or similar jobs different rates. The only time this would be an issue is if the reasons for the difference in pay is discriminatory, due to a difference in gender. The relevant law was originally brought in to deal with the fact that many women were being paid less than their male colleagues for doing the same job.


 


Whilst this protection still applies, to be successful in a claim you must show that the reason for being paid less is actually gender-related. It is no good claiming that you are being paid less than someone else, unless it can be shown that the reasons for this difference in pay is due to gender.


 


Even if there was evidence that the reasons for the difference in pay may be gender-related, the employer could still try and rely on the 'genuine material factor' defence to defend any equal pay claim. This would occur where the employer can show that the difference in pay is due to:



  • Past performance

  • Seniority or length of service

  • Different hours of work

  • Geographical differences

  • Different skills, qualifications and experience

  • Pay protection following job re-grading


 


So unless there were discriminatory reasons for the difference in pay, there is nothing illegal in paying different rates even if the workers are performing the same job. I agree that is appears unfair and morally wrong, but unfortunately it is not illegal.


 


In terms of giving up rights, that would not usually happen because as an employee you would generally gain rights, rather than lose them (e.g. minimum notice entitlement, redundancy, holidays, sick pay, etc). Just ensure that the terms in general are not less favourable because you would still be bound by them so it is what is in your contract that would matter.

Customer:

okay thanks, XXXXX XXXXX annoying as I have worked there for longer than most of my colleagues and work unsocial hours more of the time, thanks for your guidance on this anyway, and I will double check that contract!

Ben Jones :

yes ensure you are happy with all terms before you sign it, it does not mean you cannot negotiate over the pay though and highlight reasons why you should be paid more but it is a negotiating exercise rather than a legal leg to stand on

Customer:

yes, thanks, XXXXX XXXXX do that!

Ben Jones :

Great, best of luck!

Customer:

thanks again

Ben Jones :

You're welcome

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