What action can you take if you’re not being treated equally at work?

gender equality
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Article provided by Claire Kitchen, partner, Hodge Jones & Allen

We all know that the law decrees that employers give equal treatment in the terms and conditions of their employment contract where they do the same job.

Unbelievably in the current political climate, this sometimes is not obeyed by unscrupulous employers.

What if this happens to you?

As a lawyer, I can guide you through the legislation and case law, advise you to start investigating with your HR department and asking for details of male comparators.  However, in real life this isn’t so easy.  The reality is that any claim against your employer can be costly both in terms of time and money.  If your employer puts up a fight there is no cast iron guarantee that you will win your case.  The worst case scenario could be that you lose your job, despite legislation making this illegal.  If you succeed in any claim, you may end up being the recipient of an undeserved reputation for being a trouble maker.

In this era of #metoo and #neveragain, this is completely unacceptable, but for those of us who need to hold on to our jobs, there is still another weapon in our armoury.


This should be done on a regular basis, regardless of whether the impetus is due to finding out that there is a pay discrepancy.  I recently saw an article on linkedin which tried to explain away the pay gap by stating that women were not as good negotiators as men, and this leads to lower salaries.  (This of course does not get round the equality legislation).

If you believe you are being underpaid, whether it be in comparison to someone else, or generally, arrange a meeting with your manager to discuss the issues. Be upfront with your manager and explain why you want the meeting.

At the meeting

The key to good negotiation is having all your information to hand:

  • What is in your job description;
  • What are your targets and or performance indicators;
  • What have you done over and above your jo description and targets;
  • What are your figures to date?
  • What have you been promised previously
  • What benefit is the business reaping from you.
  • Try to find out how financially healthy the company. Are you able to see the accounts? Most LLPs, limited companies and plcs will have some form of published accounts.
  • What are the industry averages in relation to pay?
  • Why do you deserve the pay rise?

The discussion.

  • Keep if to the point
  • Be aware that your manager will probably try and give reasons for not giving a pay rise
  • Stick to your guns, reiterate your worth to the company
  • Rely on the hard evidence in front of you.

The aftermath

It’s going to go one way or the other.  Whichever way it goes, send an email to your manager thanking them for their time.  This records the fact that the meeting took place, and can be relied on later if necessary.

In the end, there is always the option of looking elsewhere.  If the pay rise was refused without good reason, can you live with it?  If the refusal was down to poor management and/or poor company culture can you live with it?

Of course, if the job sector in your particular industry is on the floor, you may not be able to do anything.  You also need to work out whether leaving the firm is worth it, if you have job security.

The worst that can happen is that your manager is on notice that you think you’re underpaid, and the issue of pay rises will be in their mind.

Of course, if you are aware that there is a distinct pay difference based on gender, you may want to take this further with your HR department.  Before you do this speak to a lawyer.  They will be able to guide you through the equal pay legislation, and advise you on the remedies available to you.

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