Acceptable reasons for differences in pay
Even if an employer applies the pay terms in a way that places an employee or employees in a less favourable position because of their gender than one or several other employees doing the same or same level of work for the same employer, this may not necessarily constitute discrimination. The employer will not be considered as having violated the prohibition against discrimination if they can prove that there is an acceptable reason for the difference in pay.
What is usually required for a reason to be acceptable?
Acceptable reasons have to follow the principle of proportionality. This means that the actions have to have an acceptable goal and that the chosen methods have to be justified and necessary with regards to the goal. A reason that is deemed acceptable may partially or completely explain the difference in pay.
Differences in pay cannot be deemed acceptable simply because the employer is acting in accordance with administrative or collective agreement regulations. What is essential for the evaluation is whether or not the reason is acceptable based on its actual content.
The draft of the Equality Act states that acceptable reasons for difference in pay may include a person's education, professional skills, initiative and suitability for more demanding duties. Another such reason may be the competitive environment resulting from a shortage of qualified workers. Referring to stereotypes on what women and men are like as employees is not an acceptable justification for differences in pay.