Equality of 'terms' is the key to equal pay claims

Posted: 11th August 2011

The Court of Appeal has held that in a claim for equal pay an employee is entitled to receive equal terms.

In this case claims were brought, for equal pay, by three female healthcare assistants and two receptionists. Their basic hourly rates of pay were higher than their male comparators. However, the rates of pay they were entitled to receive for working weekends, nights and during unsocial hours were lower than their male comparators. Overall four of the female employees were paid more then their male comparators.

The Court of Appeal said that once it had been established that there were terms in the women’s and the men’s contracts that were susceptible to comparison and that each of the terms were capable of being compared, then the earlier Employment Tribunal should have compared those terms. The Court of Appeal stressed that equal pay is focused on each distinctive term relating to remuneration and said that the Employment Tribunal was wrong to take a global view of the whole of a contract and the totality of pay and benefits.

The claims have been remitted to the Employment Tribunal whose job it will now be to decide the appropriateness of the comparators and whether the employer has a defence to the claims on the basis of there being a genuine material reason for the difference in pay in relation to the specific terms.

Case reference: St Helens & Knowsley Hospitals NHS Trust v Brownbill & Others