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Grading claims

UNISON wants to see fair pay and grading structures used by all employers. One of our most important roles as a trade union is helping our members to get the pay they deserve.

The Equal Pay Act and, in Northern Ireland, the Equal Pay Act (NI) 1970 (as amended), demands that workers who do the same job should receive the same pay.

Pay grade structures are widely used in the public sector to help to improve pay equality. Using pay grades reduces the likelihood of pay discrimination, giving a clear and simple system for deciding workers’ pay.

What can UNISON do to support fair pay grading?

UNISON negotiates with employers to create fair and equal pay grading structures for members. This process often involves three elements:

  • job evaluation and new pay and grading structures;
  • compensation in the form of back pay for any past disadvantage;
  • pay protection – protecting the pay of people whose jobs are assessed as being overpaid in the past.

A fairer pay grading system ranks jobs according to things like the level of skill required, the amount of responsibility they demand or the amount of experience needed.

This is the only information that should be used to decide how much the jobholder should be paid. This approach makes it easier to produce a grade and pay structure that is fair, even though it might cover lots of different types of job.

UNISON works with employers on job evaluation exercises to expose pay inequalities.

Taking on individual cases

The law in the area of pay grading is complex and employers may take a long time to make changes. For these reasons it can be more effective to tackle individual cases than try to change the rules for everyone.

Your UNISON rep will guide you through the well-established rules that cover making a grading claim. This involves:

  • submitting your claim in writing to management setting out your grievance;
  • discussing your case with someone representing your employer;
  • moving to the formal appeal process that involves your case being considered at a higher level of management.

If you are still not happy once you have taken all these steps, there may be a local appeals process you can follow. There are also legal steps you can take that may result in an employment tribunal case. Your UNISON rep can help you with your case.

Next steps for UNISON reps

To find out more about helping to negotiate fair pay the following resources may be useful:

  • check out the Agenda for Change national grades in the NHS and the national grading structures for local government in various parts of the UK;
  • contact your regional or national service group at UNISON Centre for more info –  find out who to contact;
  • check out the useful resources available from the Bargaining Support team.


Grading claims

  • I am convinced my job should be on a higher pay grade, what should I do?

    Your UNISON rep will be able to guide you through the process, but a good start would be putting your issue in writing.

  • What are Green and Red Books and how do I get hold of a copy?

    The Green Book is the local government national joint council, or NJC, agreement on pay and conditions of service. This handbook contains pay and conditions details for more than 1.4 million local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    In Northern Ireland, the Green Book applies also applies various education and library boards.

    The Scottish local government joint council agreement, known as the Red Book, contains pay and conditions details for 250,000 Scottish local government workers.

    The terms have been negotiated by local government employers and union representatives. If you would like a copy, email at UNISON’s local government service group.

  • What is Agenda for Change?

    Agenda for Change is the NHS’s national pay and grading system. It was introduced in 2004 to harmonise pay and terms and conditions for all NHS workers other than doctors.

    The system was negotiated by government health departments and UNISON, together with other health unions.