Old Square celebrates landmark ECJ ruling

Old Square Chambers played a high-profile role in the key equal pay case initially brought by Bernadette Cadman that was decided by Europe’s highest court yesterday (3 October).

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that additional years of service – in this instance, of a male employee who did not take time off to have children – could equate to more experience and therefore better remuneration.

However, the ruling means that if challenged, employers now must justify their decision to give bigger pay packets to those who have worked more years at a company.

Tess Gill at Old Square Chambers represented Bernadette Cadman, who initially brought her case to tribunal when the health inspector realised she was being paid £13,000 less than a male colleague. The case was referred to the ECJ in 2004.

Gill was instructed by Russell Jones & Walker, under a team led by partner Emma Hawksworth.

Hawksworth told The Lawyer that the firm was approached by longstanding client Prospect, the union to which Cadman belongs and which was supporting her case.

Jennifer Eady, also at Old Square Chambers, acted on the other side, representing the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Government.

Initially, the HSE had instructed Nicholas Underhill QC, formerly of Fountain Court Chambers, before he was admitted to Queen’s Bench in February. This followed Underhill’s notable instruction by Lovells to defend Merrill Lynch against the £7.5m claim brought by former investment banker Stephanie Villalba.

Although Underhill appeared in the Court of Appeal, at the ECJ it was Nicholas Paines QC of Monckton Chambers who led the advocacy for the HSE.

Hawksworth said that Cadman would argue in the Court of Appeal that hers was a case that required justification from her employer as to why length of service should be rewarded so disproportionately. She continued that Cadman was being penalised for rising quickly through the ranks.

Although no timetable has been set, the appeal is expected to be brought in a few months’ time.