Exemplar Employers Best Practice Recommendations - Equal Pay

In 2007 Opportunity Now partnered with the Government Equalities Office to identify 100 Exemplar Employers who were doing innovative work to address, Occupational Segregation, Equal Pay, Flexible Working, Training and Development, and Women Returners. Today the best practice recommendations are still relevent and provide an excellent basis for developing strategies to progress the decrease of gender pay gap and to develop further opportunities for women in the workplace.

Equal Pay: Best Practice Recommendations
Not all these ideas will apply to every organisation, but they have been identified as best practice from the Exemplar Employer projects submitted.

Pay Principals

  • Promote pay transparency.
  • Embed equal pay principles in all HR policies and procedures.
  • Carry out a Policy Impact Assessment to understand the level of risk presented by existing pay practices and procedures.
  • Introduce fixed pay awards rather than percentage increases to eliminate any incremental drift in salaries for those who have higher salaries before the performance increases are applied.
  • Reward employees for the contribution their roles make to the company.
  • Harmonise terms and conditions between differing staff groups.
  • Create a unified pay scale where all staff groups are on one pay scale and are not segregated by differing terms and conditions.
  • Harmonise hours of work across all staff groups.
  • Engage and work with trade unions, agreeing an Action Plan with them.

Equal Pay Audits and Reviews

  • Carry out an Equal Pay Audit using an independent external body to establish where any gender-related pay differences may lie.
  • Appoint a manager to oversee the review and follow-up process.
  • Use the Equal Opportunities Commission’s Five Step Model for Equal Pay Audits.
  • If you are unable to conduct an Equal Pay Audit across the organisation, start with a specific group, such as, management grades or clerical grades
  • Continue to carry out Equal Pay Audits on a regular basis.
  • Develop an action plan to address any inequalities identified in the Equal Pay Audit.
  • In large organisations have separate action plans for different Departments or Divisions.


  • Develop a clear commitment to equal pay, setting out the organisation’s principles, and communicate it to all employees.
  • Senior level commitment is essential to success of an equal pay process.
  • Ensure consistent communication from the CEO downwards.
  • Promote a culture of openness and transparency by publishing to all staff the criteria regarding job assessment.
  • Arrange workshops on the pay system and principles, Equal Pay Audit and any changes or action plans, so that all staff and managers fully understand how it works.
  • Issue a booklet to all staff on any new pay structures and supporting principles.
  • Engage staff by holding focus groups to identify their own perception of pay differentials and barriers to progression.
  • Be clear about data required and keep presentational material simple.
  • Include questions about pay in Employee Opinion Surveys to measure whether staff perceive the system as fair, and include a gender breakdown of responses.

Job Evaluation

  • Carry out job evaluation to ensure that jobs are correctly graded and loaded.
  • Ensure that job evaluation concentrates on what the job entails rather than the individual post holder.
  • Job evaluation should cover know how, problem solving, and accountability.
  • Consider an evaluation of jobs into ‘families’ to facilitate comparison with market rates for jobs of the same type and level.
  • Introduce broad banding to equalise benefit entitlements and encourage career progression
  • Conduct a mini job assessment exercise to map existing generic roles onto new grades.
  • Re-train job evaluation experts regularly to ensure that the methodology is updated and applied effectively and efficiently.


  • Design a competency based framework across all grades.
  • Analyse every management job within the company and the rating of the job based on the agreed competencies.
  • Allow staff to arrange for their own jobs to be re-assessed against the competency framework if they think they are being paid at the wrong level.

Rewards and Bonuses

  • Review the reward and recognition policy to ensure that it does not lead to equal pay anomalies.
  • Consider a flexible benefits package to provide increased choice for staff around design and content of their rewards package.
  • Monitor bonus payments to check fairness and equity, including across different specialisms.
  • Where specialist areas tend to be male-dominated and attract higher market pay premia, consider measures to attract more female applicants.

Promotion and Progression

  • Ensure that merit promotion criteria adequately reflect the skills and abilities of female staff and emphasise ability and potential, as well as achievements.
  • Provide regular training to managers making pay decisions to ensure that salary increases and bonuses are paid fairly irrespective of gender.
  • Ensure that line managers review any gender disparity during annual pay award processes.
  • Develop a simple pay policy document and guidelines for managers
  • Tackle pay progression issues with particular reference to individuals low in pay ranges.

Part-Time Workers

  • Focussing on the job not the person helps to ensure that part-time staff are not disadvantaged. The work that is completed is what is important not the contracted hours.
  • Pay particular attention to the impact of part-time working on the gender pay gap. A greater incidence of senior roles being carried out on a part-time basis will narrow gender pay gaps in the shorter term.

New Recruits

  • Remove requests for salary information from application forms and requests for references to avoid perpetuating historical gender pay gaps.
  • Set guidelines for recruitment specialists and managers on how to determine fair salaries for new jobs and hires, including taking into account salaries of existing staff in similar roles and the market rate for the new role.
  • Assess new jobs against the competency framework to determine what grade staff should be.


  • Ensure clear responsibility for monitoring progress regularly and identifying any further areas for attention
  • Carry out interim ‘healthchecks’ to monitor progress and trends.
  • If necessary, design a completely new salary structure rather than make lots of individual salary adjustments.
  • Consider a bespoke pay analysis tool to enable regular detailed audits by individual business units.
  • Regularly review and modernise remuneration policies and procedures.