Appeal court makes landmark equal pay decision

Tens of thousands of low paid local council and NHS workers could claim equal pay compensation following a landmark decision handed down in the Court of Appeal today (29 July).

Sitting alongside Lady Justice Smith and Mr Justice Lindsay, Lord Justice Mummery ruled against the local authorities in the case Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council v Bainbridge and others and Middlesbrough Borough Council v Surtees & others.

The ruling has effectively ruled all equal pay deals struck between the councils and low paid workers in the 1990s to be illegal, paving the way for thousands of similar claims to be brought.

The deal was originally designed to overturn historic pay differences between male and female employees. However, male employees who faced a pay cut as a result of the deal were able to claim pay protection to top up their earnings, while women were given no right to claim the additional pay.

Acting on behalf of Bainbridge & Ors, Robin Allen QC of Cloisters chambers argued that the deal further perpetuated the inequality in salaries between women and men and was therefore illegal.

The Lawyer reported in January how the NHS is facing a number of test cases over equal pay deals it struck with unions on women’s pay (The Lawyer, 14 January).

Allen QC was instructed to act on behalf of Bainbridge by Stefan Cross of Stefan Cross Solicitors.

The Equality & Human Rights Commission which acted as an intervener against Redcar and Cleveland BC, instructed Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC of Blackstone Chambers.

John Cavanagh QC of 11KBW was instructed to act on behalf of Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council by Sharon Langridge of Sharon Langridge Employment Lawyers.

Christopher Jeans QC, also of 11KBW, was instructed to act of behalf of Middlesborough Borough Council (BC) by the in-house legal team.