Many thanks for your patience. The law on equal pay is frequently misunderstood. It is quite common to believe that there is a right to equal pay across the workforce, especially for workers that perform the same or similar jobs. Legislation on equal pay was actually brought in to deal with the gender pay gap and to ensure that women were not paid less than their male counterparts because of their gender. So that is why equal pay would only be a relevant argument if the reasons for the difference in pay were gender-related.
The reality is that employers are free to pay their employees whatever they deem appropriate, as long as it is above the current National Minimum Wage and in accordance with the employee's contract of employment. It is not unlawful to pay employees doing the same or similar jobs different rates. As mentioned, this would only be an issue if there is a gender-related reason behind this.
Even if an employer is paying a man more than a woman, they could still try and rely on the 'genuine material factor' defence to defend any potential equal pay claim. This would be possible where the employer can show that the difference in pay is not due to gender but 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 clear gender-related reasons for the difference in pay, which cannot be justified by any of the above reasons, 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.
Does this answer your query?