A free service to help provide legal advice to female low-income earners on pay equity matters is now available in the United Kingdom. The Equal Pay Advice Service, or “EPAS,” went into operation on November 9, 2018, in time for the UK’s Equal Pay Day (the day in the year when women in the UK effectively begin to work for free) and the announcement of the UK’s pay equity legislation.
The United Kingdom, in partnership with YESS Law, a legal charity organization of employment lawyers dedicated to resolving employee/employer disputes, and the Fawcett Society, a leading UK campaigner for gender equality, created the EPAS.
The idea for the EPAS initiative came after former BCC News China editor Carey Gracie dedicated the nearly $500,000 she received in back pay compensation from her equal pay lawsuit to help create the Equal Pay Fund, which now accepts public donations as well. After salaries for all BBC international editor positions were published, Gracie challenged the pay discrepancy between her salary and that of one of her male colleagues, also employed as a BBC international editor. Gracie’s award represented the discrepancy between her and her male colleague’s salary for the three-and-a-half years both employees overlapped as BBC international editors.
The EPAS is open to those earning less than £30,000. As Gracie states, the primary mission of the service is to combat a culture of “pay secrecy” that persists in UK workplaces. Research funded by the Fawcett Society revealed that nearly 35 percent of men and women in the UK are unaware that it is illegal to pay men and women doing equal work differently. Additionally, the research revealed that 60 percent of UK employees are unaware of their legal right to inquire into potential discriminatory pay practices.
The EPAS also provides helpful information to women who may have potential pay discrimination claims, such as explaining legal terms and encouraging women to request and collect pay information on their male colleagues performing similar or equal work.