Agenda for Change court challenge could lead to flood of equal pay claims

A tribunal case that could lead to more than 13,700 equal pay claims against the NHS Agenda for Change pay system is under way.

The test case, Hartley v Northumberland Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, is being heard at an employment tribunal in Newcastle upon Tyne.

No-win no-fee lawyer Stefan Cross is arguing that Agenda for Change is inherently sexist as thousands of mainly male technical staff were placed in higher pay bands during its initial job evaluation process. This compounded previous pay band discrimination inherent under the old pay scales, he claims.

If the test case is successful, it could open the door to thousands of similar claims, costing the NHS millions of pounds in back pay claims. Cross has previously led thousands of equal pay cases against local councils.

Agenda for Change was rolled out in 2004 and applies to all directly employed NHS staff, with the exception of doctors, dentists and some very senior managers.

Gill Bellord, director of pay, pensions and employment relations, said: “NHS Employers supports equal pay for work of equal value. We devised the Agenda for Change system in partnership with the trade unions and believe that it is fair and consistent with the principles of equal pay.

“The NHS has a good record on equal pay. However, we are aware that there are a number of equal pay claims currently under way. The law relating to employment and equal pay is complex and there are a number of legal issues that will be tested in the Hartley case, and it would inappropriate to comment until the outcome is known.”

The case is likely to last until the end of November.

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