New Equal Pay ruling regarding comparators is good news for female workers

A ruling by the Supreme Court at the end of June has effectively handed women the legal right to demand the same pay as male colleagues doing a different job of ‘equal value’.  (for more info on this see our article here about Equality issues).

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of more than 200 female classroom assistants and nursery nurses, backed by Unison, in an equal pay case against Dumfries and Galloway Council, that has so far taken 7 years to get this far.

The female education workers argued that they should be paid the same as ‘comparable’ male workers employed elsewhere in the local authority but doing jobs of ‘equal value’ – as there were no direct male comparators doing the same job – such as road workers, groundsmen, refuse collectors and leisure attendants.

The Council argued that the men had a different place of work to the female workers so could not be comparable. The male workers were paid bonuses on top of their pay that the women did not receive.

By ruling in favour of the women the Supreme Court overturned a previous appeal that found the women were ‘not in the same employment’ as their male counterparts. The Court found that it was “no answer to say that no such male comparators ever would be employed at the same establishment as the women. Otherwise, it would be far too easy for an employer so to arrange things that only men worked in one place and only women in another”. The Court went on to say that equality legislation was there to “secure equality of treatment, not only for the same work, but also for work rated as equivalent or assessed by the experts to be of equal value…. it stands to reason, therefore, that some very different jobs which are not or cannot be carried out in the same workplaces may nevertheless be rated as equivalent or assessed as having equal value”.

The case will have implications for local authorities who operate services at different establishments and for private sector Employers who run several establishments. Unison said they have more than 2,000 other cases on hold waiting for this judgement.

The Supreme Court has asked for the case to return to Employment Tribunal to decide whether or not the claimants’ work is in fact of equal value to that of the comparators and if so, whether there is an explanation or not, other than the difference in sex, for the difference between their terms and conditions.

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