The local authority workers’ union, Unison, was pursuing the claim for Dumfries and Galloway Council female staff, including nursery nurses and support for learning and classroom assistants.
It argued their terms and conditions should be in line with male manual workers at their place of employment and the Supreme Court has today ruled in their favour and referred the case back to an Employment Tribunal.
The Tribunal must now decide whether the women’s work is of equal value to the male “comparators” and, if so, whether there is an explanation other than the difference in sex for the difference between their terms and conditions.
It was revealed that more than 200 equal pay claim cases were brought on behalf of the female staff and that they are seeking identical treatment as male manual workers. The men are currently employed under what is known as the ‘Green Book’, which includes provision for bonus payments and pay supplements, while the women’s contract is governed by the ‘Blue Book’, which has no such provision.
Initially, an Employment Tribunal allowed the claim to proceed, however an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) overturned that decision, ruling that there was no “real possibility” of the male workers doing their jobs in schools.
Although the Court of Session disagreed with that finding, it still dismissed the appeal on the grounds that if the men were to be employed in schools their terms and conditions would not be “broadly similar” to their existing terms.
Following this ruling, Unison decided to take the case to the Supreme Court, which today upheld its appeal.
Commenting on the ruling, Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary, said:
“I am delighted that the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of our women members.
“It is a shame, though, that they have had to go through this process and endure a seven-year wait, just to get equal pay.
“Dumfries and Galloway Council should take immediate steps to correct their pay and I urge other councils to follow suit. We have nearly 2,000 cases on hold, waiting for this judgment.
“Employers should be in no doubt that this union will continue to pursue cases until all women are treated equally. There are far too many who are still discriminated against and far too many employers who are using every single legal argument and loophole to dodge their obligations under equal pay law.”
It has been reported that this case could see other councils forced to change their remuneration and bonus arrangements.
In a statement, Dumfries and Galloway Council said:
“This is a complex case, which has been considered by Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal, Court of Session, and now the Supreme Court. The Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Session both ruled in our favour.
“The Supreme Court judgment is the most recent stage of the legal process. The appellants, including classroom assistants and nursery nurses, now have won the right to have their jobs compared to those of male manual workers, such as road workers and groundsmen.”
“This judgment has implications for many local authorities and other public bodies. Our council will now consider its position in response to the Supreme Court judgment.”