Salary equality

Before applying for a job, it is essential to research how much a job is worth. This will put you in a strong position from which to negotiate your salary at an interview. If salary level isn’t specified in the job advertisement, you can be sure that the role will carry an existing but flexible salary range, taking into account the role’s market value and its geographical location.

Salaries for jobs with similar titles can vary greatly across industry sector and location. And, despite the Equal Pay Act, your salary may even be affected by your gender and ethnic origin. However, the Act, introduced some 30 years ago, says that people should be paid the same for either:

– the same or broadly similar work

– work rated as equivalent under an employer’s job evaluation scheme – you can ask to see details of this

– work of equal value, that is, different but comparable in terms of the effort, skill, responsibility and decision-making required


At present, the main areas of inequality are evident in employment relating to women, ethnic minorities, geographical situation and job title.


Women’s salaries lag behind their male counterparts by as much as 18 per cent, despite the Equal Pay Act. This seems unlikely to narrow quickly. The reasons are complex, but include the tendency to reward masculine qualities of toughness and competitiveness, as well as some firms still having work cultures and career structures that favour men.

Ethnic minorities

Not only is it harder for ethnic minorities to find work, according to the Commission for Racial Equality, but they earn less too. According to a new report from the Cabinet Office’s Performance and Innovation Unit on Ethnic minorities and the labour market, ethnic minority men and foreign-born ethnic minority women are paid less than white people are. Although reasons for this inequality remain unclear, the report concludes that discrimination is certainly a key factor.

Geographical divisions

Where you live can make a difference to how much you are paid. Historically there are discrepancies between the more lucrative salaries of London and the South East and other parts of the country, especially old manufacturing or mining areas.

Job titles

Managers, for example, working within marketing and personnel earn more than their counterparts working within local and national government who, in turn, earn more than those working in the transport or services sector, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics New Earnings Survey.

There are various reasons why discrepancies in pay scales remain. Many employers make salary decisions partly based on the job applicants’ previous pay history, which perpetuates the pay gap. This is an unfair way of deciding how much will be paid to an individual for a role, regardless of gender or ethnic origin. Of course it’s hard to tackle employers preconceptions’ but by checking out what the role is worth, you will have a case to put forward if a boss tries to short change you in salary negotiations.

If you accept a job offer and subsequently discover that colleagues doing similar jobs are paid more, if you feel the reason is on grounds of gender or race, you can bring an equal pay claim by lodging a case at an employment tribunal. You must identify a person, the ‘comparator’, who is doing equal work in the same employment, and who is paid more than you are. Pay in this context means not just basic salary, but also contractual terms and conditions such as pension, sick pay, holiday pay, performance pay and overtime.

Although the employer can try to defend a claim by arguing that the reason for the difference in pay is based on something other than gender or ethnic origin, such as market forces, new discrimination legislation is making it easier to bring successful pay claims in the case of sex discrimination. Under Burden of Proof legislation the onus is shifted onto the employer to disprove a pay regime is not discriminatory, rather than on the employee who has to prove it is. It is hoped that the Government will eventually include racial discrimination under the new rules.

Employers are also required to observe the mimimum wage, introduced by the Government to ensure that workers aged 18 and above receive a fair standard of pay, wherever they work. Find out more on the minimum wage at

For further information, see the Commission for Racial Equality web site at and the Equal Opportunities Commission website at