by Lua Leggett

Fairness and equality

This is the ‘biggie’, so let’s get it out of the way first! Organisations have a legal obligation to provide equal pay for equal work, free from any bias. If you become aware of any inequalities due to race, gender or other discriminatory practices, it is your duty to report this up the line to your own line manager, section head or human resources.

Discrimination due to age is one of the great tragedies of modern life. The desire to work and be useful is what makes life worth living, and to be told your efforts are not needed because you are the wrong age is a crime.

Johnny Ball

Your company should have an equal pay policy which you can refer to. You should familiarise yourself with these guidelines and be able to inform employees how these practices work and how their pay has been determined.

Respond to any genuine grievances on equal pay as a priority and seek senior intervention and support. It is not advisable to tackle this type of grievance yourself, but you should initially listen to the complaint and collect the basic facts of the matter together, before taking the matter further.

Perceptions matter

The difficulty you may face as a line manager is when one of your team ‘perceives’ that they are being unfairly paid in comparison with a colleague who they believe to be doing the same or a very similar job.

This perception, whether it is correct or not, will be that person’s reality, so it cannot simply be swept aside and needs to be dealt with fairly and honestly. It’s also important that you are consistent across the team. Below are some likely scenarios:

The other colleague has been active in the role for longer and is evaluated by the business as more experienced or skilled or knowledgeable

  • The other colleague may have a better attendance record
  • The other colleague may have more qualifications
  • The other colleague may be achieving higher outputs, targets or goals
  • The other colleague may be able to bring broader skills from a previous role.

If there does not seem to be any explicit reason why one colleague is being paid more than another, then you have a legitimate case to refer to HR for further guidance and it may indeed prove that there is some inequality that needs to be addressed.

  • Listen effectively to the individual and promise to look into the matter.
  • Examine the evidence.
  • Draw your own conclusion.
  • Either explain to the individual the justification for the difference or refer to HR or your line manager for further guidance.