Pay comparisons and the classifications/groupings used

The aim of the pay survey is the basis for choice of classification

Groups that have been created based on specific criteria should be used as a basis for assessing and comparing salaries in the pay survey. When carrying out a pay survey it must first be decided which classification or grouping system will be used to collect and record the salary data. According to the Equality Act, the grouping can be done according to difficulty level or work duties, or the classification can be based on groups based on some other criteria.

It is not enough to simply assess the salaries of women and men and the difference in pay between them for the entire personnel so that the entire personnel are divided into women and men.   

Different workplaces use very different remuneration systems. When choosing the method of classification or grouping, the aim of the pay survey should always be taken into consideration. Therefore the employer should assess which kinds of comparisons are required to find out if there are unfounded differences in pay between women and men. The pay comparisons must be comprehensive enough so that they can provide an understanding of where women and men are placed in the remuneration system.

Comparisons within and between groups based on work duties

Equal pay means treating women and men equally regarding pay, not only within groups of employees doing the same work, but also between groups of employees doing work of equal value.

One of the aims of the pay survey is to find out whether or not work of the same level of difficulty is treated equally regarding pay. Therefore the employer should have or establish a picture of which jobs are as difficult, i.e. of the same value. When defining which jobs are of equal value, it is recommended to use an assessment system for job demands, even if this is not required by the Equality Act. According to the draft of the Equality Act factors that should be taken into consideration when comparing jobs are the quality and contents of the duties, as well as working conditions. Important criteria that are often mentioned are skill, responsibility, stress and working conditions.

Equal pay also requires that female and male employees are treated equally regarding various fringe benefits. Regarding fringe benefits it is not only important to assess the situation within groups of employees, but also finding out which groups are receiving fringe benefits and on what criteria.

Table 1: An example of an assessment based on duties of work

Group based on duties



Total salary
average salary (as)


Job-specific average salaries


Fringe benefit 1 average salaries

Women  Men Women


as out of
men's as (%)

Women Men

as out of men's as
Women Men

as out of men's as
Group 1 based    on duties                                                                                                                  
Group 2 based on duties                      
Group 3 based on duties                      


Assessment based on level of difficulty

The justification for the Equality Act states that in particular in situations where the entire personnel is included in the same assessment of job difficulty, a classification based on difficulty is the most logical basis for carrying out a pay survey.  In this case the premise and assumption is that duties of the same value are already placed in the same group according to difficulty within the workplace's remuneration system. Assessing the placement of duties within the system is a logical part of the pay survey.

According to the impression of the Ombudsman for Equality, it would be good for the pay survey to contain information on which duties are included in each group based on difficulty level, and how women and men are placed within the groups, even when the duties are classified in groups based on difficulty in the pay survey. Itemising duties in a particular group based on difficulty level would provide a clearer picture of e.g. how female-dominated and male-dominated duties are placed within the remuneration system. As the application of a remuneration system is usually based on several decisions, often made over a long period of time, it should also be ensured that the placement in the groups of duties carried out by female and male employees also follow the requirements in the Equality Act as a whole. It may also be important to get an idea of which level of difficulty e.g. female and male employees carrying out very similar duties, either under the same or different job titles, are placed, and assess if these placements are founded.

Table 2: An example of a classification based on difficulty, including data on groups based on duties of work

Level of difficulty (LD)

Group based on duties



Assessing salaries
(see above chart)

LD 1 Duty 1      
  Duty 2      
LD 2 Duty 3      
  Duty 4      
LD 3 Duty 5      
  Duty 6