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Equal pay for equal work - Campaigning for equal pay in Network Rail

4 January 2013

Gender pay equality is guaranteed by law (and has been for over 40 years), but the gender pay gap in Britain remains amongst the highest in the European Union.

equal pay coin.jpg

According to the Fawcett Society, the current gender pay gap – the average difference between men and women’s pay – is 14.9 per cent.

TSSA believes in fairness and justice for all our members and we want to end unlawful unfair and unequal pay in the industries where we organise.

Over the past two years we have been collecting information from managers in Network Rail about the different rates of pay they receive for jobs with exactly the same title and job description. That information has demonstrated a consistent pattern of unequal pay – with women mostly, but not entirely, being paid less than men for the same type of work. However, for a long time, Network Rail insisted there was not an equal pay problem among their management grades. We disagreed – and recognised that if we were to get fair pay for members, we needed to get organised.

Starting with surveys

Suspecting that we would find a pattern of unequal pay, we started by conducting an anonymous survey of our management grade members, asking them to pass the survey on to colleagues, whether they were in TSSA or not. Some 1200 people sent us details of their gender, job title and pay rate.

While a few men were paid less than their women colleagues, the broad pattern was that women were paid an average of £4,500 less than the men for essentially doing the same work.

After reviewing the data we undertook a series of much more specific surveys. We sought more detailed information for seven job titles and have received over 200 responses – with more coming in as time goes on. We also asked members to commit to act either as a claimant and a comparator in an employment tribunal case.

Statutory questionnaires and grievances

Our solicitors – Morrish – assisted with designing grievance letters for an initial group of 14 women who had responded to the detailed survey. They also formulated statutory questionnaires seeking information about other employees’ pay and the gender breakdown of their job title.

As time went on more women (and a few men) also raised grievances and we served further legal documents on their behalf.


Network Rail’s collective response

At this point the company told us that, if we would stop actively seeking further potential claims, they would talk to us about developing a new pay and grading system – and this time it would be equality proofed. Naturally, we agreed but we wanted more – and we got it.

We now have an Equal Pay Working Group with four reps whose role is to concentrate on this project. We have trained them in the principles of equal pay legislation and developing an equality proof pay and grading system.

Network Rail’s response to individuals

In a well-meaning attempt to placate some of the individual members with grievances, ad hoc payments averaging £5,000 have been made. That’s all very well, but it does nothing to address the core problem of an idiosyncratic and out of control pay system impacting on large numbers of staff, it is merely an admission of culpability.

We are now talking seriously to Network Rail about a full and proper settlement of the 33 current grievances, but the amounts due need to be factually calculated and dealt with systematically alongside the development of a pay and grading structure.

Legal strategy

Underpinning the campaign so far has been our legal strategy, which is why we have got as far as we have. Network Rail knows we are more than likely to win any cases we submit to employment tribunal. They know this because they are all too aware their pay system does not meet the Equality and Human Rights criteria for equality proofing, some of which appear in our tick box feature on this page.

There is a time limit of six months in which an employee can make a claim for equal pay once they leave their employment, and where they have been subjected to unequal pay. Because of this we have submitted three ET claims already, for managers who have left or been made redundant this year.

Wining equal pay is not just about income, as a settlement can include an element of back pay (up to six years in some cases) and for those in the Railways Pension Scheme it will have a significant impact on their pension on retirement.


Equal pay checklist

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) website contains a very useful checklist designed to alert organisations to the ‘high risk’ factors which indicate that the way they deal with pay could well lead to successful claims for equal pay being made to an employment tribunal (ET).

The checklist applies to all organisations whether they are in the private or public sector organisations, whether they are large or small.

EHRC guidance says employees and their representatives should have ready access to information about:
each aspect of the pay structure the underpinning ‘equal work’ assessment tool.

In addition, representatives should receive regular data on the gender impact of each aspect of pay.

Does your employer’s pay system comply?
Yes / No

Different and non-basic pay and T&Cs
Where there are different elements paid in addition to basic pay, the guidance suggests employers should identify the predominant gender of each job group that receives the additions and use that information to determine the disparate impact, based on gender and other protected characteristics.

Does your employer’s pay system comply? Yes / No

Long, overlapping pay scales and ranges
Employers should avoid long overlapping pay scales. They necessarily mean that people at the top of one scale are earning more than people at the bottom of the higher grade. Not only is this likely to be discriminatory, but will also be a disincentive for staff to take promotion.

Does your employer’s pay system comply? Yes / No

Discretionary pay
EHRC guidance provides that any devolvement of pay to local managers has potential for inconsistent outcomes and often results in pay discrimination. It suggests that devolved aspects of pay like merit awards and performance assessments should be checked for their impact on characteristics like gender, ethnicity and age.

Does your employer’s pay system comply? Yes / No

Market based pay
While market based pay may be a defence against an equal pay claim in an ET, such a system would only be acceptable where the practice is directly accountable to a shortage of particular skills at a particular time.

Does your employer’s pay system comply? Yes / No

Up to date Job Evaluation Scheme
A valid job evaluation system is essential to achieving a pay system that does not discriminate on the basis of gender. The evaluation must be based on real job information and a determination of grading by weighing up demands such as skill, knowledge, responsibility and effort. Postholder’s input to the job evaluation and grading process is also required.
Detailed records of the jobs and their evaluation must be kept to support the decisions made about the job grades, and to allow for employee appeals against the process.

Does your employer’s pay system comply? Yes / No

Get involved

At TSSA HQ, we cannot solve the whole problem, but we can get further if you share our determination to win fair and equal pay across the industry. Please contact if you want to help. In the New Year we will be holding meetings across Network Rail with a view to finding out what our members’ experience is of unfair and unequal pay at the company and discussing what a fair, transparent, objective pay system would look like.

If you work for an employer other than Network Rail, then please complete the quick tick box, right, to get an idea whether your employer is acting in compliance with their equality obligations. If they fail our quick test it may be that pay in your company is also unfair and quite probably undervaluing the work of women. Let us know by contacting

For more information of equal pay in general, see



Addendum: The above article on equal pay claims rightly says that an equal pay claim must be brought within 6 months from termination of employment. It is important for members and reps to appreciate that there are other triggers that may mean that the 6 month time limit starts to run. Members who are TUPE transferred need to make a claim within six months of the date of the transfer (because the transfer for equal pay purposes means “termination” of the old employment). Likewise, where there are any significant contractual changes (such as promotion) an equal pay claim must be lodged within six months of the date of such changes.

Members who think they may have a claim should contact their local rep without delay, or email


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