What Is the Equal Pay Act and Why Is It Important?

equal pay

We’re fast approaching 60 years since President John F. Kennedy passed the Equal Pay Act.

Kennedy passed the act, which is designed to prohibit discrimination against women in payment according to the former President himself — in 1963 on June 10.

What is the Equal Pay Act, however, and what are the effects? Has it really given us equality for all? Find out the answers to these questions and more in our handy guide — just keep reading to get the lowdown.

Equality For All — What Is the Equal Pay Act?

At its heart, the Equal Pay Act requires that men and women get paid equally for equal work for the same organization. The jobs don’t have to be identical but should be “substantially equal”.

It doesn’t just include salary, either. The law encompasses all payments and forms of compensation made to employees. From overtime pay and holiday pay to travel expenses, hotel stays, and life insurance, it’s all included.

Anything other than equal pay for equal work and a company can have a discrimination lawsuit on their hands — they may have to pay out an equal pay settlement to the employee.

Equal Pay Laws

As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explain, the act clearly sets out that employers cannot give unequal payment to men and women who do the same jobs.

If two jobs need the same effort, responsibility, and skill, and have similar working conditions, they’re likely to be considered the same job.

But, how do we measure skill, effort, and responsibility?


Skill is measured by what’s required to do the job, not what skills each employee has.

For example, if one employee had a degree while another didn’t, but they were doing the same job, the employer couldn’t pay the first employee more on the basis of their extra qualification.


This relates to the amount of effort required to do the job, whether physical or mental.

Consider employees along an assembly line. If one employee has to do more than the others, perhaps lifting the finished product off the line as well as working on it, paying them more than the others would not be illegal.


If there’s no clear difference in the amount of responsibility given to different employees, they should get paid the same regardless of gender.

For example, paying a male employee more than his female counterpart on the basis that he also has to turn a machine off at the end of the day would not be allowed — the law wouldn’t class this as a clear difference.

As well as ordering employers to pay men and women the same for equal work, there’s a requirement that when there is a difference in pay, the employer can’t decrease the higher earner’s wages. Instead, they should increase the lower earner’s wages.

On top of this, it’s also illegal to retaliate against somebody for opposing discriminatory practices, including paying women less than men or taking part in an investigation as part of the act.

Equal Pay Today

We’ve seen clear progress. In 1963, women’s earnings, on average, were little more than half of men’s, but this has increased over time to around 80%.

There’s still room for improvement, too. It’s suggested that women won’t have equal pay until we’re over halfway through the twenty-first century.

However, after reading our guide you should have a better idea as to what the Equal Pay Act entails — we can all keep fighting for equality for all.

If you’re looking for more guides like this one, don’t forget to check out the rest of our posts.