Allonby v Accrington & Rossendale College & others, ECJ, 13 January 2004

Equal pay for everyone?: The European Court rules that a female lecturer employed via an agency cannot claim equal pay against a male lecturer employed directly by the college.

Allonby had been employed from 1990 to 1996 as a part-time lecturer by Accrington & Rossendale College under a succession of one-year contracts. In 1996, the college decided to end the contracts of all hourly paid part-time lecturers, and made them sub-contractors instead.

She was re-engaged through ELS employment agency. Her pay was based on a proportion of the fee agreed between ELS and the college and, as a result, her income fell. She also lost membership of the Teacher’s Superannuation Scheme (TSS).

Allonby brought proceedings against the college and ELS for equal pay and denial of membership of the TSS, among other things. The claim for equal pay reached the Court of Appeal, which referred it to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The ECJ ruled that the law (Article 141 EC) had to be interpreted in such a way that Allonby could not claim equal pay in respect of her reduction in wages, nor membership of an occupational pension scheme for teachers, using a male comparator who was still employed and paid as a full-time lecturer at the college, under conditions determined by the college.

ELS and the college could not be construed as being the same employer, and the differences in pay could not be attributed to a ‘single source’, and so there was no single body responsible for the inequality.

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