Equal pay boost for women after court rules on long service pay structures

Women in some jobs who have time off to raise children received a significant boost today after a landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal.

Christine Wilson, an inspector with the Health and Safety Executive, claimed that the organisation’s pay agreement with employees linking pay to length of service for up to 10 years was unfair. This meant that three male colleagues on the same level as Wilson were paid more than her for doing equivalent work.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – which supported Wilson’s case – argued that linking pay to length of service disadvantages women who take time out of the workforce to raise children and so do not have the same continuous length of service as men.

The Court agreed with the EHRC and found that although employers do not generally have to justify schemes linking length of service to pay, they will have to if there is evidence that this is having a disproportionate impact on women.

Susie Uppal, director of legal enforcement at the commission, said: “Women should not be disadvantaged in the workforce because of they take time out for maternity leave or to meet caring responsibilities.

“Linking pay to length of service often does them a disservice. Direct discrimination, long hours, and a lack of flexible working options are some of the biggest barriers to achieving gender equality in the workplace.”

The EHRC is currently conducting a consultation on how to develop a consistent way to measure the gender pay difference in organisations.

the government hopes gender pay gap reporting will be effective on a voluntary basis, but it could be made mandatory using a reserve power in the Equality Bill: a future government could chose to use that power if progress on closing the pay gap has not been made by 2013.

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