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Equal Pay Act 1970
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Long title: ...
Statute book chapter: 1970
Territorial extent: England and Wales; Scotland
Date of Royal Assent: 1970
Status: Substantially amended

The Equal Pay Act 1970 is an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament which prohibits any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment. It came into force on 29 December 1975. The term pay is interpreted in a broad sense to include, on top of wages, things like holidays, pension rights, company perks and some kinds of bonuses. The legislation has been amended on a number of recent occasions to incorporate a simplified approach under European Union law that is common to all member states.

The act has been criticised as it fails to address the gap between ethnic minorities (Black and Asian) and white workers. The gap between ethnic minorities and white workers is much higher than that of men and women.[1][2][3]


Elements of a claim

For an employee to claim under this Act they must prove one of the following:

  • That the work done by the claimant is the same, or broadly the same, as the other employee.
  • That the work done by the claimant is of equal value to that of the other employee.
  • That the work done by the claimant is rated (by a job evaluation study) the same as that of the other employee.

Once the employee has established that they are employed on 'equal work' with their comparator then they are entitled to 'equal pay' unless the employer proves that the difference in pay is genuinely due to a material factor which is not the difference in gender.

Single Status

In 1997, trades unions negotiated Single Status job evaluation, hoping that this would enforce the Equal Pay Act without needing to take numerous pay claims to industrial tribunal. Single Status was intended to establish whether jobs were of equal value, and bring in a pay model which would remove the need for equal pay claims. Jobs which had previously been classed as manual or administrative/clerical would be brought together under one payscale and one set of terms and conditions. As of March 2008, however, Single Status has resulted in industrial action in Coventry and Birmingham, with Wolverhampton considering it. Trade union Unison (one of the three signatory unions of the Single Status Agreement, along with Unite and the GMB) had urged their membership to accept the agreement on the basis that "none should lose and many will gain". This ensured membership acceptance of the agreement. However, after members had voted to accept the deal on this basis, Unison received legal advice which resulted in them removing their commitment to permanently protecting the pay of members who had their salary downgraded as a result of job evaluations. This effectively meant that the signatory unions were guilty of initiating, participating in and endorsing a process (Unison has threatened councils with legal action if they did not carry out Single Status job evaluations) which it freely accepted would result in huge, life changing pay cuts for a significant proportion of their own membership.


  • Barber v Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Group (C-262/88) [1991] 1 QB 344, definition of pay including occupational pension schemes
  • Hayward v Cammell Laird Shipbuilders Ltd (No 2) [1988] AC 894, equality clause implication under EqPA 1970 s 1
  • Home Office v Bailey [2005] IRLR 757, presumption of discrimination with a pay disparity
  • Strathclyde Regional Council v Wallace [1998] 1 WLR 259, purpose of legislation not fair wages
  • Shield v E Coomes Holding Ltd [1978] 1 WLR 1408, claimant must prove they are in like work to an actual comparator
  • Capper Pass Ltd v Lawton [1977] QB 852, work must be 'of the same or a broadly similar nature'
  • Eaton Ltd v Nuttall [1977] 1 WLR 549, the work may be rated as equivalent under EqPA s 1(5) through a job evaluation scheme which is 'thorough in analysis and capable of impartial application'
  • Pickstone v Freemans plc [1989] AC 66, a 'token man' defance does not defeat a claim
  • Macarthys Ltd v Smith (No 2) [1981] QB 180, a predecessor is a valid comparator
  • Diocese of Hallam Trustee v Connaughton [1996] ICR 860, a successor is a valid comparator
  • Leverton v Clywd County Council [1989] AC 706, 'common terms and conditions' can include those under collective agreements
  • British Coal Corporation v Smith [1996] ICR 515, terms and conditions must be 'substantially comparable' not identical
  • Lawrence v Regent Office Care Ltd [2002] IRLR 822, contracting out, an associated employer and a 'single source' test under art 141 TEC
  • Ratcliffe v North Yorkshire County Council [1995] ICR 833, contracting out
  • North Cumbria Acute Hospitals NHS Trust v Potter [2009] IRLR 176, 'single source' test
  • Defrenne v Sabena [1976] ICR 547 (C-43/75), the 'same establishment or service' definition
  • Clay Cross (Quarry Services) Ltd v Fletcher [1979] ICR 1, personal factors in the material difference defence
  • Rainey v Greater Glasgow Health Board [1987] AC 224, labour scarcity or geographical factors in the defence
  • Enderby v Frenchay Health Authority [1994] ICR 112 (C-127/92), defence through the 'state of the employment market' under the proportionality principle
  • Glasgow County Council v Marshall [2000] ICR 196, under the SDA 1975 if no evidence of discrimination is found, a pay disparity need not be justified
  • Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council v Bainbridge and Surtees v Middlesbrough Borough Council [2008] EWCA Civ 885, [2008] IRLR 776
  • GMB v Allen [2008] EWCA Civ 810, [2008] IRLR 690

See also


External links

  • Directive 2006/54/EC, on the equal treatment of men and women in employment regarding the definitions of direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and provisions on maternity. It comes fully into effect in August 2008, and just does a consolidating job and repeals a number of previous Directives, including 76/207/EEC and 2002/73/EC.
  • The Labour Unions Digest web-site [1] offers information and advice to people who have received, or are threatened with, pay cuts as a result of Single Status job evaluations. The site has articles on the background to Single Status. It is critical of the Single Status process and is generally critical of the role that the signatory unions have played in its implementation, giving reference to legal rulings to back its case.


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