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Ruling paves the way for equality pay claims

30 July 2008

A Court of Appeal ruling yesterday has paved the way for thousands of equal pay claims against local authorities and NHS trusts across the UK.

The court ruled against the transitional schemes at two councils, brought in to protecct earnings of male workers for a period following a 1997 collective agreement which was designed to remove pay discrimination anomalies between different categories of workers.

The two local authorities involved in yesterday's hearings were Redcar & Cleveland and Middlesbrough councils. The court said their pay protection schemes were unlawful because they reinforced inequality in the workplace.

The case applied to two groups of female workers, including school crossing patrol staff and cleaners. They had not received pay protection, although it had been given to the mainly male members of staff working in street cleaning or refuse collection roles. It is estimated that each woman involved will receive £2,000 each in backdated pay.

The three judges who heard the case said the ruling was likely to apply beyond the public sector and would affect the way employers and trade unions look at equal pay, job evaluation and changes to pay.

Lord Justice Mummery refused permission to allow the cases to progress to the House of Lords, although he said he understood the financial implications involved.

Rachel Crasnow, a barrister with the specialist equal pay chambers firm Cloisters said pay protection had reinforced existing pay discrimination in workplaces by giving male workers bonuses under a different name.

It has been predicted that the ruling could prompt other claims against local authorities across the country, totalling up to £500 million, money the authorities say they do not have.