Equal Pay Act 1970

Equal Pay Act 1970
Long title An Act to prevent discrimination, as regards terms and conditions of employment, between men and women.
Citation 1970 c. 41
Territorial extent England and Wales; Scotland
Royal assent 29 May 1970
Commencement 29 December 1975[1]
Status: 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. The Act has now been mostly superseded by Part 5, chapter 3, of the Equality Act 2010.



In the 1959 General Election, the Labour Party's Manifesto had proposed a charter of rights including 'the right to equal pay for equal work'.[2] September 1965 saw the Trades Union Congress resolving 'its support for the principles of equality of treatment and opportunity for women workers in industry, and calls upon the General Council to request the government to implement the promise of 'the right to equal pay for equal work' as set out in the Labour Party election manifesto'.[3] However, there was no immediate action by either government or unions.

Brian Harrison says polls in 1968–69 showed public opinion was moving strongly in favour of equal pay for equal work; nearly three-quarters of those polled favoured the principle.[4] A trigger cause for the introduction of the legislation was the 1968 Ford sewing machinists strike,[5] though the legislation also paved the way for the UK's entry to the European Community, helping to bring it towards conformity with Article 141 of the Treaty of Rome, which says that 'each Member State shall ensure that the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value is applied.'.[6][7] The Act 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 1970 Act only dealt with equal pay for the same work but in 1975 the EU directive on Equal Pay was passed based on article 119.

In 1978, despite the passage of legislation to promote equal pay, women’s relative position in the UK was still worse than in Italy, France, Germany, or the Benelux countries in 1972.[8]

The Equal Pay Act was repealed but its substantive provisions were replicated in the Equality Act 2010.

Elements of a claimEdit

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 (in terms of effort, skill, decision and similar demands) 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 StatusEdit

In 1999, trades unions negotiated Single Status job evaluation for local government, 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 pay scale and one set of terms and conditions.

The implementation of Single Status in local government led to many claims being brought by employees as they sought compensation for past pay disparity.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ UK Parliament. Equal Pay Act 1752 as amended (see also enacted form), from legislation.gov.uk.
  2. ^ Mary Davis, 'An Historical Introduction to the Campaign for Equal Pay', http://www.unionhistory.info/equalpay/roaddisplay.php?irn=820.
  3. ^ Mary Davis, 'An Historical Introduction to the Campaign for Equal Pay', http://www.unionhistory.info/equalpay/roaddisplay.php?irn=820.
  4. ^ Brian Harrison, Finding a role?: the United Kingdom 1970-1990 (2010) p 233
  5. ^ The Reunion, BBC, published 2003, accessed 2010-10-04; Equality Act an important milestone says Unite, Unite, 1 October 2010-10-01, accessed 2010-10-08; Equal pay heroes honoured, TUC, 2006-06-05; Women's Worth: the story of the Ford sewing machinists notes by Sue Hastings, Sue Hastings, 2006, accessed 201-10-08
  6. ^ http://europa.eu.int/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexapi!prod!CELEXnumdoc&lg=en&numdoc=c19ons_tre&model=guichett. Jill Rubery, 'Equal Pay and Europe', http://www.unionhistory.info/equalpay/roaddisplay.php?irn=785; cf. New JNCHES Equality Working Group, 'The Gender Pay Gap - A Literature Review', p. 7.
  7. ^ Jill Rubery, 'Equal Pay and Europe', http://www.unionhistory.info/equalpay/roaddisplay.php?irn=785.
  8. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=TUg9AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA74&dq=UK+manual+workers+real+wage+growth+1978&hl=en&sa=X&ei=avV7UamXA6_v0gX_gIGYCA&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=UK%20manual%20workers%20real%20wage%20growth%201978&f=false
  9. ^ http://www.supremecourt.uk/decided-cases/docs/UKSC_2012_0008_Judgment.pdf

Further readingEdit

  • Conley, Hazel. "Trade unions, equal pay and the law in the UK." Economic and Industrial Democracy 35.2 (2014): 309-323.
  • Deakin, Simon, et al. "Are litigation and collective bargaining complements or substitutes for achieving gender equality? A study of the British Equal Pay Act." Cambridge Journal of Economics 39.2 (2015): 381-403. online
  • Dickens L . "The road is long: thirty years of equality legislation in Britain," British Journal of Industrial Relations (2007) vol. 45, 463–94.
  • Gilbert, Kay. "Promises and practices: job evaluation and equal pay forty years on!." Industrial Relations Journal 43.2 (2012): 137-151.
  • Zabalza A. and Z. Tzannatos. Women and Equal Pay: The Effects of Legislation on Female Employment and Wages in Britain (Cambridge University Press, 1985).

External linksEdit