Landmark Equal-Pay Ruling Could Cost Councils Millions

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Byline: By Stephen Howard

A landmark ruling yesterday over equality for low-paid women could cost local authorities and the NHS millions of pounds.

The critical equal pay test cases at the Court of Appeal resulted in a judgment that pay protection schemes which perpetuate sex discrimination were unlawful.

This paves the way for thousands of pay claims to be launched in Employment Tribunals throughout the country, principally against local authorities and NHS trusts.

But the three judges who heard the cases said the effect of the ruling extended beyond the public sector and was likely to affect the way in which employers, employees and trade unions approach equal pay, job evaluation and changes to pay and grading.

Lord Justice Mummery, who delivered the ruling, refused permission to take the issues to the House of Lords, but said he understood the public importance of the case and the financial consequences of the findings.

"The sums involved in the proceedings are very large indeed," he said, allowing the parties extra time to lodge petitions for appeals at the highest court in the land.

The cases were heard by the Court of Appeal between January 15 and January 23 this year and concerned two separate groups of female claimants - among them cleaners and school crossing patrol staff - employed by two councils in the North-east.

Speaking after the ruling, equal pay specialist, Cloisters' barrister Rachel Crasnow, said: "The court's ruling, that discriminatory pay protection is unlawful, could pave the way for thousands of new equal pay claims against local authorities and the NHS.

"At the root of these cases was a question about pay protection. …