Landmark ruling in maternity pay case

Employers will be forced to include pay rises in calculations for maternity pay following a landmark ruling at the Court of Appeal today.

Michelle Alabaster, who claimed she was underpaid during maternity leave, has won a nine-year legal battle against Barclays Bank.

Alabaster, who started her case against in 1996 when she was pregnant with her daughter, claimed a recent pay rise of just over £200 had not been included in calculations for her maternity pay. The Court of Appeal ruled she should have got the full amount.

Alabaster was working for the Woolwich Building Society, since taken over by Barclays, when she became pregnant.

She claimed the pay rise of £204.53 should have been included in her maternity pay and that her employers were breaking European sex discrimination law by underpaying her.

After her original employment tribunal, Alabaster took the case to an employment appeal tribunal, the Court of Appeal and then the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

The European court ruled in her favour and on Tuesday the Court of Appeal ruled English law as well as European law allowed her to receive the extra payment.

Her case was supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission, whose chairwoman, Julie Mellor, said the ruling closed a legal loophole.

She told the BBC: “Mrs Alabaster’s nine-year marathon battle to claw back a £200 pay rise she was due in her maternity pay sets a precedent for women bringing equal pay claims while on maternity leave.

“This case demonstrates that the UK’s equal pay legislation needs an overhaul and we are delighted that the court has recognised that women on maternity leave do not need to find a male comparator when bringing equal pay claims.”

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