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.
Whilst going off sick may be something you wish to do if you feel uneasy about this, in the circumstances you will not be able to force the employer to pay y the same unless yu can show the above discriminatory exceptions apply.
I'm sorry if this is not necessarily the answer you were hoping for, however I do have a duty to be honest and explain the law as it actually stands. This does mean delivering bad news from time to time. I hope you understand and would be happy to provide any further clarification if needed. If you are still satisfied with the level of service you have received I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating by selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page. Thank you