New raft of payouts for low paid women following landmark ruling in equal pay case

In a landmark case the Court of Appeal has ruled that some transitional arrangements that were put in place to address equal pay differences between men and women are unlawful.

In an attempt to address equal pay, public sector bodies such as the National Health Service and local councils used transitional schemes to bring salaries in line. Many introduced payment protection schemes for male workers allowing an adjustment period before reductions in salaries were phased in. However public sector bodies overlooked the possibility that theses types of transitional schemes could be proved as discriminatory as they sustain pay differences for an extended period.

In the grouped cases of Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council v Bainbridge and others, and Middlesbrough Borough Council v Surtee and others, the Court of Appeal ruled such schemes were discriminatory to women. The claimants successfully argued that because they should have been paid the same as their male colleagues in the first place, the schemes were unfair.

Delivering the ruling Lord Justice Mummery said: "The court's ruling on this issue has the greatest possible significance to all concerned, and the sums involved in the proceedings are very large indeed."

The ruling will potentially cause the revisiting of settled equal pay claims, as well as a raft of new equal pay cases where transitional arrangements were used to address pay differences. However the ruling does not outlaw payment protection schemes all together, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (CEHR) argued successfully that in certain circumstances these plans can be useful in resolving pay inequalities quickly, fairly and practically. Taking the guidance on board the court drew tight parameters around the circumstances where such 'transitional arrangements' can be justified.

Its now widely expected and hoped that as a result of the CEHR intervention that many of the claims that will stem as a result of the ruling will be settled out of court. This is due to the new clarified position preventing further challenges in the legal system.

With the “hey dey” ruling expected later this year on mandatory retirement, and a more equality legislation on the way the British tribunal system faces the potential of overload. This is something the CEHR would hope to avoid, as it may increase the potential of an equalities backlash and a change in the political climate that is currently facilitating huge progress for human rights.


posted by

Dizali Mentha
Assistant Publisher



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