Equal pay in employment

The Supreme Court has recently issued its ruling in an equal pay case which could result in a number of council employees sharing a £12 million compensation payout.

The female Claimants are arguing that they should receive identical treatment as the male manual workers.

The case involved several female employees employed by Dumfries and Galloway Council who in roles including nursery nurses and classroom assistants. It was argued that their terms and conditions should be in line with male workers in similar roles, even though the work of these “comparators” (the male workers) is carried on in a different place of work. The Supreme Court ruled in their favour and referred the case back to an Employment Tribunal.

An Employment Appeal Tribunal overturned the initial decision by an Employment Tribunal who had allowed the claim to proceed. They ruled that there was no real possibility of the male workers doing the Claimant’s jobs the workplace they were in.  However, the Supreme Court agreed with the Employment Tribunal and allowed the Claimant’s appeal.

This case is an example of how easy it can be for Claimants to use comparators who would never be employed in the Claimants’ place of work, although they still have to show that the comparators are doing jobs of equal value.  The Supreme Court took the view that although the work involved may be different, as long the terms and conditions would be broadly similar, then the comparator could be used.

The Tribunal now needs to decide whether or no the Claimants’ work is of equal value to the comparators and if so, whether there are any other factors or explanations other than the difference in sex for the variation in their terms and conditions.

This was a complex case, but it may lead the way for other employers to change their payscale and bonus arrangements.

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