Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The United States Congress passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963 as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Its British parallel, the Equal Pay Act 19702, took effect at the very end of 1975 and was much amended by the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. The five year delay between enactment and enforcement provided time for employers and labor unions to adjust to the new requirements. The drafters of the British statute were aware of the United States statute, and United States cases interpreting that act were relied on quite early in United Kingdom litigation. Now that the British statute has a decade of interpretation behind it, a sufficient body of data permits a meaningful comparison of the experience under these two statutes.

This Article concentrates on the doctrinal development concerning conditions of employer liability and employer defenses under both the British and American interpretations of equal pay. The influence of Common Market law and other aspects of the environments in which these laws operate will emerge in that discussion. Since the European Community law structure will be unfamiliar to some readers, a brief overview is set out as the next portion of this introduction; it is compared in broad terms to the American federal structure. Because the "equal value" sections of the British law have thus far received only sketchy interpretation, that law is discussed in a separate section, following those dealing with comparisons between the United States statute and the pre-1984 British act.