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Alarm bell rings for employers on equal pay; The latest news from HR, recruitment, employment law and staff issues.

ALANDMARK Court of Session ruling on equal pay could see similar actions being brought against both public and private sector companies, employment law experts warn.

The ruling handed down in May in the Glasgow City Council v Unison case, a long-running legal battle on equal pay backed by the GMB union and solicitors HBJ, left the council with a potential compensation bill running to tens of millions of pounds.

The issue under appeal centred on the delayed implementation of a national agreement reached in 1999 to move to a single status system for local authority employees where all staff would be on one pay and grading system free from discrimination.

Glasgow City Council conducted a Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) to affect the changes to bring around 30,000 staff and manual workers together under one pay structure across 3,000 job titles.

In order to bring administrative, professional, technical and clerical staff under the same pay system as manual workers, the council carried out a job evaluation scheme (JES) under which jobs were then graded.

Manual workers, most of whom were male, earned bonuses under the old scheme calculated at a percentage of basic pay, and under the new Pay Protection Scheme (PPS) were judged as being "in detriment" as bonuses lost under JES resulted in an overall reduction in pay, which saw their job "red circled". Those bonuses were meant to be productivity-led, though over time became fixed meaning male bonus earners got the bonus whatever they did, including when they were on holiday or off on sick leave.

Those employees working in largely female-dominated roles, such as catering assistants and care workers, were deemed to work in broadly equivalent roles under JES though the benefit of PPS was not extended.

Around 6,000 female staff brought a case against Glasgow City Council arguing the pay measures put in place as part of the pay restructure discriminated against female employees as a result of historical sex discrimination which protected male workers pay over a set period.

An Employment Appeal Tribunal found the pay protection provisions used by Glasgow City Council had been "tainted for sex" but the arrangements were objectively justified.

The council appealed the Tribunal ruling at the Court of Session, and lost, and in June the Court of Session refused the council's request to appeal.

Donald Mackinnon, director of legal services at Law At Work, believes more claims will follow: "The fact that some of these claims were first raised more than ten years ago does highlight one of the main weaknesses of equal pay legislation particularly for large groups of employees - the time, cost and difficulty of pursuing such claims.

"For employers as well, there is a huge cost, both financial and in terms of time taken up in defending these actions. Thus far, most of the large scale equal pay claims have been directed against public sector employers, but there are signs that private sector employees are also raising mass claims.

"With the recent introduction of mandatory pay gap reporting for employers with more than 250 staff, there is every possibility that an increasing number of private sector employers will face the cost and stress of equal pay challenges." | | IN FOCUS: Reasons for the decision Lynne Marr, partner and employment law specialist at Brodies LLP, said Glasgow City Council's case had fallen on its failure to justify its course of action when introducing pay protection under "objectively reasonable grounds".

Marr said while the council was "aiming to right historic discrimination" it had done so with a view to ensuring "it could keep its own internal workforce competitive" in order to compete with the private sector on tender bids.

She said: "It is difficult to say if there will be a raft of successful claims now against other councils, or that live claims are indefensible, because not every local authority introduced Single Status and implemented job evaluation in the same way.

"Some councils did not operate pay protection. "Perhaps those that did carried out the assessment that Glasgow City was found not to have.

"City of Glasgow fell down on the facts; they simply had not done the analysis the tribunal expected to see.

"If they had and had still decided that they could not have extended pay protection to the female claimants they may not have lost."
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Insider Monthly
Date:Aug 1, 2017
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