Equal Pay Act 1970

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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The Act has now been mostly superseded by Part 5, chapter 3, of the Equality Act 2010.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.

A trigger cause for the introduction of the legislation was the 1968 Ford sewing machinists strike,[4] 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.'.[5][6] 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.[7]

The Equal Pay Act was repealed but its substantive provisions were replicated in the Equality Act 2010.

Elements of a claim[edit]

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 Status[edit]

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.


  • Shield v E Coomes Holding Ltd [1978] 1 WLR 1408, claimant must prove they are in like work to an actual comparator
  • Capper Pass Ltd v Lawton [1977] QB 852, work must be 'of the same or a broadly similar nature'
  • Eaton Ltd v Nuttall [1977] 1 WLR 549, the work may be rated as equivalent under EqPA s 1(5) through a job evaluation scheme which is 'thorough in analysis and capable of impartial application'
  • Pickstone v Freemans plc [1989] AC 66, a 'token man' defence does not defeat a claim

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

  • Directive 2006/54/EC, on the equal treatment of men and women in employment regarding the definitions of direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and provisions on maternity. It comes fully into effect in August 2008, and just does a consolidating job and repeals a number of previous Directives, including 76/207/EEC and 2002/73/EC.