Equal Pay Update

A major event in the story of equal pay was when Equal Pay legislation was introduced in 1970. Its overarching objective was to ensure that women were paid the same as male comparators when doing jobs of the same value. Historically, men in the same pay grade were paid a considerable amount more and also received bonuses. This meant that some of the jobs done by females in the same grade were sometimes paid less than half of male salaries.

Victory in Birmingham

On the 24th October 2012,  Birmingham City Council has been unsuccessful in arguing that equal pay claims made by hundreds of women should not be considered under legal grounds.

The judgment represents a major change in Equal Pay legislation since its introduction.  The implications will affect thousands of employees in the public and private sectors who, at the moment, feel that this piece of legislation does not apply to them.

The Birmingham case involved 174 claimants, with the possibility of 1,000 claims pending in Birmingham alone.

A High Court decision in December 2010 stated that equal pay claims could be heard in the High Court as well as at an Employment Tribunal. The decision extended the time that claimants have to make a claim. It is now 6 years after leaving a place of employment rather than 6 months. This opens the door to thousands of potential new claims.

Public and private sector

Equal pay claims against local authorities have been widespread for years, particularly since the implementation of the 1997 ‘single status’ agreement. This agreement between trade unions and local authorities was designed to harmonise the terms and conditions of former administrative, professional, technical and clerical staff with manual workers.  However, whilst the public sector has made some steps to deal with equal pay issues as the main focus of claims, it is clear that the private sector will also become exposed.

Private sector organisations, such as supermarkets, will have clear equal value issues. It is expected that typical female roles at the front of house on checkout and customer service will be paid differently to their male comparators in jobs such as warehouse operatives, unloading lorries etc.

The ticking time bomb

All private sector businesses need to be very aware that this is a ticking legal time bomb and it will explode at some point in the near future.

It is the right time for women working in the private and public sectors, or who have done in the past six years, to consider whether this affects them. This ruling now empowers women to take their cases down the civil route and seek the rightful and just remedy.

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