Q&A: Do I need to pay female and male co-workers the same?

For the first blog in our new employment law series, we explain how to handle accusations of unequal pay.

First published on Thursday, Aug 13, 2020

Last updated on Wednesday, Jul 17, 2019

2 min read

Getting the right answers to tricky HR problems isn’t easy. A quick online search can spit out conflicting answers and it takes hours to read through lengthy legal documents.

That’s why we’re launching our new Q&A blog series. Every month, you’ll get clear answers to common employment law questions right here on the BrightHR blog.

For the first in our series, we’re going to tackle equal pay.    


I run a small business and have two employees who do the same job role.

Recently, one of my employees found out that his colleague (who’s female) earns £2.50 an hour more than him. He got upset and said that I was breaking equal pay laws.

But that was never my intention. I only agreed to pay her more because she has more experience than him. Plus, equal pay only applies to women, not men, right?

Please help.

Our HR expert’s answer:

Firstly, both men and women can make a claim for equal pay. That’s if someone of the opposite gender gets more money than them for doing similar work.

So your employee might have a point. But first, you need to assess whether the work both employees do is of equal value.

You should also think about any justifiable reason (apart from her gender) why your female employee gets more money. For example, if she has a lot more responsibility at work than her male co-worker.

But if both employees do similar work, you should think about increasing his pay and sharing some of her responsibilities with him. This will help end any claims of inequality and avoid future issues.

If you don’t act, your employee could take you to an employment tribunal for equal pay & sex discrimination, and you could be forced to fork out hefty compensation.

Got a question of your own?

Whether you want to know more about equal pay or need help handling a different HR issue, our legal specialists are just a phone call away.

In one quick chat, you can get confidential legal advice that helps you avoid mistakes and hefty fines. So put your mind at ease…

Ring us now on 0800 783 2806.

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