Negotiating pay in the private sector: do your research

Step 3. Bolster your case with facts and figures

Pay scales

Provide facts and figures to bolster your case

The key factor that shows you might need a pay rise is inflation. If the cost of living is going up, you will need more earnings to cover all your expenses. 

The statistics cover different measures of inflation, but unions tend to prefer the RPI measure as it better incorporates housing costs.

Other important information is the kinds of increases being given to other workers in the economy. The Office for National Statistics measures this each month in its survey of Average Weekly Earnings (AWE).  You can find the rises recorded specifically in the health sector by looking at the third table in these statistics.

Consider whether you may have an equal pay claim

If you are being paid less than someone else because of your sex, you may be able to bring an equal pay claim.

The relevant law is the Equality Act 2010 (and Equal Pay Act 1970 in Northern Ireland), which says that men and women are entitled to receive the same pay and benefits for doing equal work.

Equal pay law is not about fair pay: it is about pay inequality between the sexes. It says that a woman is entitled to be paid the same as a man (and vice versa) in the same employment doing equal work unless the employer can point to a genuine material explanation for the difference which is not based on sex.

It relies on you being able to point to a named 'comparator' of the opposite sex who is being paid more than you are for doing equal work.

What is equal work?

There are three categories of equal work. You must be able to show that you and your chosen comparator are doing:

  • like work: where your work is the same as or broadly similar and any differences are not of practical importance;
  • work rated as equivalent: where the work is different but has been rated in a valid job evaluation study as equivalent; or
  • work of equal value: where you are doing different jobs but they are of equal worth in relation to the job demands, such as training and skills, conditions of work and responsibility levels.

For example, as a female physiotherapist you may have an equal pay claim if you discover that a male physiotherapist is being paid more than you are and there is no reason to explain the difference other than your sex.

You may also have an equal pay claim if the majority of physiotherapists employed at your establishment are women and they earn less than another group of predominantly male workers who are doing work of equal worth – for instance, project managers or IT support staff

The comparator

You can choose your own comparator, and you can choose more than one. They must be someone of the opposite sex who is in the same employment.

The comparator may be employed by the same employer at the same establishment or workplace as you, or they could work for a subsidiary of the same company. They may even work at a different workplace provided they are employed on the same terms and conditions, such as in another branch of the same company.

Finding out information about pay is not always easy since fellow workers do not have to discuss their pay with you if they do not want to. If the union is recognised at your workplace, they are entitled to receive information about pay for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Terms that prevent workers discussing their pay to establish whether there is pay discrimination are unlawful, although there is nothing to prevent employers having contract terms that ban discussions of pay for any other reason.

Reasons for the difference in pay

An equal pay claim will only succeed if the reason for the difference in pay is the sex of your comparator. If the reason your comparator is paid more than you are is because they have additional qualifications, experience, or years of service, the difference in pay can be justified and there is no valid claim.

If your comparator is required to do different tasks or additional tasks, this can also legally justify paying them more. Employers can justify paying someone more because of their job performance, although it can be harder to provide concrete evidence to support this.

Other genuine material factors justifying a difference in pay include location, where one location has a higher cost of living (for example, London weighting), unsocial hours, regular night work or rotating shifts.

If you are thinking of bringing a tribunal claim

Get in touch with the CSP, who may refer you for legal advice.

There is no qualifying service required for an equal pay claim: the right to equal pay starts from day one of your employment. You can bring an equal pay in an employment tribunal (or industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland) at any time while you remain in your job, or within six months of leaving it.

You must go through the Early Conciliation process before you can issue a tribunal claim (through Acas if you are in England, Wales or Scotland or Labour Relations Agency (LRA) if you are in Northern Ireland). You will find details on the Acas and LRA websites.

The law protects workers from victimisation for doing anything in connection with an equal pay claim.  You therefore have legal protection if your employer punishes you in any way because you have raised the issue of equal pay.

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