ECJ’s advocate general hints at backing for landmark equal pay case against Health and Safety Executive

A landmark equal pay claim being pursued through the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has moved a step closer to victory following a favourable ruling from the courts most senior lawyer, the advocate general.

Bernadette Cadman, a principal inspector of health and safety, has been fighting the case after discovering her employer, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), was paying male colleagues on the same grade as her more money.

Cadman, who has worked for the HSE for 13 years and was made a band 2 inspector in 1996, said the organisation’s HR department informed her that male colleagues were being paidby between £5,000 and £7,000 more per year.

In his opinion, published last week, the advocate general agreed with Cadman that it was unlawful to allow for men in a comparable role to be paid more than their female colleagues solely on the basis of length of service without any need to show why that was justifiable.

Paul Noon, general secretary of Prospect, the union backing Cadman’s case, said: “We welcome the opinion and are optimistic that the court’s final verdict will back the advocate general’s findings.

“This is the most important equal pay claim to be brought in the last 10 years and is particularly relevant to public services or any employment where long seniority-based pay scales exist, or where additional contractual benefits are dependent on long service, such as enhanced holiday entitlements.”

Prospect’s legal team presented the case to the ECJ in March after Cadman was granted leave to appeal an earlier ruling by a UK employment appeal tribunal that challenged the outcome of her initial tribunal case, held in May 2002.


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