I currently share a receptionist job with a colleague and have discovered that she is paid approx £5 per hour more than me. Our roles are identical other than she works two days and I work three. She previously had a role at a higher level, but after maternity the company refused her application to do the previous higher role on a two-day basis but offered the reception role as an alternative. She gets paid the salary from this previous role on a pro-rata basis – hence why her hourly salary is considerably higher than mine. In normal circumstances I am aware that the company is obliged to pay us the same salary for the exact same job, but does the maternity protection regarding her previous salary override this? Or should I also be getting paid the same salary? Recently, I have been promoted to Senior Receptionist, assuming more responsibility and am now getting paid less than someone I manage. Any help you could give me would be appreciated.
I note from your question that you currently share your job with another receptionist, but that she is paid approximately £5 per hour more than you are. You also noted that the colleague you share the role with is female, but that the difference in pay is linked to her previously having a role at a higher level than you. She was then offered the part-time job share after previously having a flexible working request rejected.
When an employee returns from maternity leave they have the right to return to terms and conditions no less favourable than those which would have applied had she not been absent. Her job role has changed, yet your employer would have risked a potential discrimination claim if they sought to reduce her salary rather than pro-rata it as the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations are there to ensure that employees suffer no disadvantage in the workplace as a result of their pregnancy/maternity leave.
Secondly, I note that you were recently promoted to Senior Receptionist, but state that someone you manage is paid more than you. You do not state in your question whether this colleague is male or female. This is important as the equal pay provisions provide that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work (which means like work, work rated as equivalent or work of equal value). Your employer may defend a claim if they show the reason for the difference is due to a genuine factor and not based on the sex of the employee in question (e.g. length of service).
If you believe they are not getting the same rate of pay as a comparator of the opposite sex for work of equal value, the first step to try and resolve the issue would be to speak to your employer informally about this and give them the opportunity to clarify the situation. From your question it sounds as if you have done this already. The next step would be to raise a formal grievance if the issue cannot be resolved.
If a grievance did not conclude matters then I would advise that you take further independent legal advice. Generally speaking, you can bring an equal pay claim in an employment tribunal at any time during your employment or within the six months following the termination of your employment. You would also need to undertake the Acas Early Conciliation process before any claim was submitted to an employment tribunal.
Should you require any further clarification on the above points then please do not hesitate to contact Tracey Guest of Slater Heelis on 0161 672 1246.
*Helen Frankland assisted with answering this question.