Equal pay successes for Prospect members

In recent years we have brought many different cases challenging pay inequality. We have shown how a joint approach of litigation, collective bargaining, and in some cases industrial action, can deliver real benefits for members.

Prospect challenge to length of service

Since 2001 Prospect has been running a legal challenge arguing that where pay systems, which are reliant on length of service, disproportionately disadvantage women workers the employer must justify the differences in pay.

The first two cases were for Bernadette Cadman and Christine Wilson who worked for the Health and Safety Executive.

Bernadette, despite having completed five years in her grade, was being paid up to £9,000 less than male colleagues doing equal work. The main reason for the difference in pay was that the men had been employed in the organisation for much longer.

A year later Christine Wilson, a health and safety inspector, brought a second case against HSE, also challenging the justification of paying people more because of longer service.

These two cases succeeded following nine separate hearings including the Court of Appeal and European Court of Justice.

A number of other cases have been taken since then, with multiple claims against several departments and agencies including: Valuation Office, Veterinary Laboratory Agency, Prison Service, and the Intellectual Property Office.

These cases have resulted in significant pay increases for members. For details of the successful IPO case settled in 2013, read our employment law update on the matter.

Opaque pay systems and equal value

At the end of 2017 we celebrated the great success at the Met Office, where the equal pay gap has been virtually eliminated.

In February 2016 we presented tribunal claims for 77 women members claiming equal pay. The pay system was opaque and there were numerous different pay ranges for different jobs, which often overlapped and failed to align with the job evaluation results.

There were three preliminary hearings, including a significant victory in January 2017, where we successfully resisted the Met Office’s attempts to limit the scope of claims. Following this, the employer obtained Treasury approval to enter into settlement discussions on individual cases and, very importantly, a new pay structure for the whole office.

As a result, the majority of staff will get a very significant pay increase of up to £7,000 and the new pay
agreement brings the overall pay gap down from over 10% to less than 1% by 2019.

In an ‘equal value’ case a few years ago over 160 Prospect members in the Prison Service who worked as trainee and assistant psychologists successfully brought equal pay claims to the Employment Tribunal.

The psychologists, who were predominantly women, argued that their work was of equal value to that of male Prison Officers who were paid considerably more. The litigation prompted settlement discussions, resulting in a pay increase of up to 20% for some members.

Identifying and tackling cases of equal pay

The cases taken by Prospect in recent years demonstrate the very positive use of equal pay law. Our commitment to seeking fairer and non-discriminatory pay systems has seen significant improvements in pay.

Particularly with the impact of austerity across all sectors and the squeeze on pay in the public sector, we should ensure that all our pay structures are regularly audited, and consider legal claims where there are signs of inequality.