My male colleague is paid more than me. What can I do?

Your question:

I’ve been working for my company for two years, and have just discovered that I am paid more than £5,000 less than my male colleague, despite doing the same job! How should I approach a request for equal pay?

Our answer:

If you have an identical role in every way to a colleague but he’s getting paid more than you, there are certain things you have to consider and there are a number of ways in which you can deal with it.

Things to consider before asking

One consideration that a lot of people think about is how long someone has worked at a company. If your colleague has worked there for five years longer than you have, that means he should get a bigger salary, right?

Wrong. If you are providing exactly the same service to your company in terms of accountability, responsibility and value, then your jobs are of equal importance and should be treated equally.

However, there are some other things that you should consider when comparing salaries. If your colleague has more relevant experience than you do from outside of the company, it is likely that he might be paid more.

Another potential reality to consider is that when he was hired his particular set of skills might have been limited in the marketplace, meaning your company had to pay more to get them at that time. If you have been there longer and the market changes, new people may also get paid more.

Taking these things into consideration, make sure to check who you are comparing yourself with before confronting your boss.

How to handle your approach

Once again, it’s all about your attitude. If you confront your line manager with guns blazing, demanding an explanation for why your salaries aren’t equal, chances are that they will feel attacked and get defensive. But if you approach them genuinely, they will likely be more inclined to help.

Outline why you feel that your job is of equal value to your colleague and what your grievance is. If your comparator (an employee of the opposite sex working for the same employer, doing like work of equal value) has the same experience as you, then it is up to your boss to explain or investigate why it is you’re being paid less.

An employer may defend a claim if they show that the reason for the difference is due to a genuine factor and not based on the sex of the employee.

You may be able to use the Equal Pay Act

If your company has no explanation for why you are being paid less then it may become a legal matter and you may be able to claim under the Equal Pay Act. The best way to handle the situation is to try work it out internally with the relevant people.

However, if you can’t resolve the matter informally or through your company’s grievance procedure, you are able to complain to an employment tribunal under the 2010 Equality Act, who are fully equipped to help you. (You can read more about your employer’s responsibility under the act here.)

Answered by Helen Taylor, Head of HR at Instant Offices.