Equal Pay ? not for the Lawyers!

04 April 2014

Worthingtons assist in equal pay dispute for Senior Public Prosecutors.

15 Senior Public Prosecutors in Northern Ireland issued Tribunal proceedings against the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland and the Department of Finance & Personnel in relation to the fact that they were receiving less pay than male comparators.There were also claims of indirect sex discrimination on the grounds of sex and age and religion.The claims arose out of their transfer from Grade A of the Northern Ireland Office pay scale to Grade 7 of the Northern Ireland Civil Service pay scale and the transfer of their comparators with whom they were performing equal work to the higher paid Grade 6 when the policing and justice powers were devolved to the Northern Ireland administration in April 2010.

On the particular facts of this case the employers accepted that the Claimant was performing like work or work of equal with her comparators with whom she was being paid less.The Claimant confirmed that the interface arrangement which was applied to the Claimant in the transfer of her role from the Northern Ireland Office to the Northern Ireland Civil Service was tainted with indirect sex discrimination in terms of age, religion and gender and this was accepted by the Employer.Therefore the only matter for the Tribunal was to determine whether or not the Respondent could objectively justify the treatment.

The justification provided by the employers in this case was to ensure that the changes to pay and grading which were introduced under the delegated pay and grading arrangements in 1998 did not of themselves act as a barrier to voluntary or compulsory interdepartmental transfers, to ensure that the transfers were affordable and within budgetary constraints and to ensure that the transfers did not disrupt efficient business organisation or cause management dysfunctionality.The Tribunal held that all of the above could amount to legitimate aims for the purposes of objectively justifying the disparate treatment.However the Tribunal stated that the Respondents in this case applied the interface arrangements by deliberately misrepresenting the grading and misinterpreting the terms of previous settlements.Furthermore the interface arrangements were not clear or transparent and were not appropriate to meet the legitimate aims.In addition the Respondents were aware of the potential discrimination having taken legal advice in May 2010 that in all likelihood this would breach equal pay, sex discrimination, age discrimination and religious belief discrimination legislation.

The cost argument was not accepted by the Tribunal, the Respondents asserted that all 1,179 Grade 7s and 4,570 EO2s could potentially bring claims with initial costs just over £16 million but the Tribunal was not satisfied that the employers had gathered and adduced the necessary evidence to substantiate this assertion as there was no analysis of the gender, age group or community background of all of those that they alleged could bring a claim.

The decision referred to the Northern Ireland Civil Service Pay Remit Approval Guidance under Equal Pay/Age Discrimination and stated that the Tribunal would have expected the Respondent to have carried out an analysis under that guidance.In relation to the third aim that the transfers did not disrupt effective business organisation or cause managerial disfunctionality the Tribunal stated that the only information provided was speculative as to what the likely disruption would be and therefore it was not satisfied that this aim had been substantiated at all.

The Tribunal awarded back pay arrears until February 2006 and awarded the lead Claimant injury to feelings of £12,000 together with interest which amounts to a total of £15,780.

Maxine Orr is a Partner specialising in employment law in Worthingtons Commercial Solicitors, Belfast who acted on behalf of the Claimants in this case.Those with any queries should always take professional legal advice as equal pay claims are extremely complicated for Employer and Employees alike.

Newsletter Signup