The Prison Service could face a bill of up to £50m after losing its appeal against 2,504 equal pay cases at an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).
The EAT upheld an earlier tribunal ruling from July 2004 that supported multiple claims for equal pay, mainly between women working in administrative and managerial roles, as well as prison officers and governors.
In its 2004-05 annual report, the Prison Service said the potential liability of the tribunal cases could be up to £50m.
The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which brought the claims, said pay gaps of up to £5,000 still exist between administrative and management grades and prison officer and governor grades that have been rated as work of equal value by an independent expert.
Personnel director Gareth Hadley said the Prison Service was consulting its lawyers and considering a further appeal.
“We will have to think how this [decision] will affect us in the long term,” he told Personnel Today.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka accused the Prison Service of using more than £1m of taxpayers’ money on “defending inequality”.
“It is high time the Prison Service accepted the reality that there is pay inequality and entered into dialogue with the union to speedily address the issue,” he said.
A remedies hearing is expected to take place early next year to set the level of the payouts.