Under the Equal Pay Act 1970, men and women who do the same or broadly similar work, or work that is found to be of equal value in terms of effort or skill, are entitled to the same employment contract terms, including pay.
The provisions under this law as well as other equality laws have been brought into focus today as the BBC published its list of employees earning over £150,000.
According to the report, approximately two-thirds of those earning more than £150,000 are male, with 25 men on the list earning more than £250,000, compared to just 9 women.
The BBC's highest-paid male star is Chris Evans, who is earning over £2,200,000. Claudia Winkleman is the highest-paid female star, earning between £450,000 and £500,000 in 2016/17.
Whilst some think the disclosure is positive, others are concerned that it will prove inflammatory and will lead to inflation of pay across the board, with those earning less inevitably asking why and demanding higher pay.
The question John Whittingdale, MP for Maldon and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, put to Radio 4 this morning was whether 'under-paid' female employees should be paid more, or whether 'over-paid' men should be paid less, in order to equalise pay.
Whilst equality is enshrined in law, the question brings up practical concerns as to whether businesses can afford to equalise pay. Does equalisation mean cutting jobs to ensure all employees can be paid the same, or having to fund pay increases elsewhere in the business?
Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall, said today that the BBC is "more diverse than the broadcasting industry and the Civil Service," but that there was "more to do" on gender equality and diversity.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.
Our Employment Team will be happy to assist you with any aspect of equality and discrimination issues. Please contact Head of Department, Alexandra Dean, on 01245 228141 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.