The Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970 but still many companies appear unaware of the full extent of employees’ legal rights to earn equal pay for equal work.

An employee can raise questions with her employer to seek information to help the employee decide whether (and how) to bring any claim. While pay secrecy clauses in employment contracts are unenforceable (meaning employees cannot be penalised for discussing their salaries) at present there is no absolute legal requirement for employers to disclose an individual employee’s salary to other employees who suspect unequal treatment. Women who suspect they are being underpaid may have to bring a Tribunal Claim before an employer can be forced to disclose relevant information.

The Fawcett Society (the UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights) have now put a bill to parliament that would give the ‘right to know’ what a male colleague was paid if they believe they are a victim of unequal pay; enshrining a legal right to access information on the pay and benefits of a comparator.

As outsourced HR consultants, the reality of this situation is that once you are in a litigious scenario and disclosure of all relevant data is required by a Tribunal or Court, you are likely to be in a weaker position than if you engaged earlier in the process.

Actions – review pay across the firm and ensure there is a justification for any differences in base salary, benefits and bonus. When you discuss proposed bonus figures ensure significant differences can be justified. You need to keep notes on any quantitative and qualitative data you relied on to justify any differences. You may be asked to provide this in the near future.

Bonus pay does form part of both the gender pay gap calculation and a separate gender bonus gap calculation.