The Distributive Justice of Equal Pay under the Equality Act

The Equal Pay Act 1970 was the main piece of UK legislation with regard to the pay of men and women and has since been incorporated into the Equality Act 2010. The Act looks at pay in three main areas: (1) Work that is the same, or broadly the same; (2) Work of equal value; and (3) Work that is rated the same as that of a comparator. There are no shortage of articles and publications on the topic of equal pay, so I thought that I would write this article with a slightly different focus – the ‘Distributive Justice’ of equal pay under the Equality Act.

What is ‘Distributive Justice’?

The concept of Distributive Justice is normally defined as ‘fairness associated with outcomes, decisions, and distribution of resources’. The main theory associated with Distributive Justice, Adams’ Equity theory in 1965, suggests that individuals measure the perceived ratio between their inputs and their outcomes against a relevant and salient comparator. In its simplest form, if a woman has an equal level of input in the same job (or at least in a similar job or one of equal value) as a male counterpart, then they should expect the same level of pay. Of course, any inequity between an individual and their salient comparator is likely to cause dissatisfaction.

The same theory also suggests that if an individual perceives that there is an inequity between themselves and their comparator, then they will ‘input more’ in order to receive the same outcomes. Is it fair though to effectively state that women should ‘work harder’ than men in order to receive the same level of remuneration? There’s a one-word answer to that question if you ask me: No.

Final Thoughts

Some notable recent cases involving organisations such as Asda and Birmingham City Council prove that the issue of equal pay is one that has still not been resolved, which perhaps suggests that the Equality Act (as well as the previous Equal Pay Act) is not facilitating the kind of ‘distributive justice’ that it aims to achieve in relation to pay. Will these high-profile cases prove to be a watershed moment on this issue, or will we still be discussing this issue in years to come?

Let us know what your thoughts are in the Comments section below.

Photo credit: recruitingtimes.org

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