[Ed – This is part of one of a two-part series by Robert Henderson.]

Calls for equal pay for women are often not calls for equal pay for equal work.  Rather, they are demands for equal pay with men regardless of whether the jobs women do are the same, the experience levels are the same, the natural ability is the same, and the diligence and conscientiousness is the same.

How can this be? Simple, the legal definition of equal work under the Equality Act 2010 does not simply state there should be equal pay if the woman is doing a job identical with that of a man at the same employer. Instead, it includes different types of work being judged as being work of equal value. Here is the relevant section of the Act:

65Equal work

(1)For the purposes of this Chapter, A’s work is equal to that of B if it is—

(a)like B’s work,

(b)rated as equivalent to B’s work, or

(c)of equal value to B’s work.

(2)A’s work is like B’s work if—

(a)A’s work and B’s work are the same or broadly similar, and

(b)such differences as there are between their work are not of practical importance in relation to the terms of their work.

(3)So on a comparison of one person’s work with another’s for the purposes of subsection (2), it is necessary to have regard to—

(a)the frequency with which differences between their work occur in practice, and

(b)the nature and extent of the differences.

(4)A’s work is rated as equivalent to B’s work if a job evaluation study—

(a)gives an equal value to A’s job and B’s job in terms of the demands made on a worker, or

(b)would give an equal value to A’s job and B’s job in those terms were the evaluation not made on a sex-specific system.

Such evaluation introduces a considerable degree of subjectivity and can result in what most people would not think were  jobs of equal value  or difficulty being judged as of equal value or difficulty,  for example, a clerical assistant and a warehouse operative, or an occupational health nurse and a production supervisor have been  judged to be of equal status and value. (I remember some years ago a senior person, a woman, within the Equalities body policing the system at the time giving an interview on the BBC in which she said that an example of jobs of equivalent value were a school carpenter and a school dinner lady, the  former being a job requiring a long apprenticeship and the latter a few days experience at most.)

Is there really a pay gap between men and women?

The official UK figure for the average differential between full-time male and female pay is 9% according to the latest official figures. That is not surprising when these things are taken into account: the propensity for women to take time out from paid employment to have children, their greater role on average in caring for their children and their smaller representation in more senior jobs (a  consequence of less experience due to childbearing and childcare. To those factors can be added the dubious equivalence of work mentioned above. It is conceivable that the pay differential is not a differential of remuneration for the same work but a differential based on ability and experience.

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