Hegarty & Co pays out £19,000 to settle claim

The firm of senior Law Society Council member Richard Hegarty has paid its conveyancing clerk £19,000 to settle her industrial tribunal claim that she was being paid less than her male colleagues.

But the claim could still lead to disciplinary action by the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS) if it finds that Hegarty & Co has breached the Law Society's anti-discrimination rule.

The clerk, Amanda Braithwaite, who was backed by the Equal Opportunities Commission, launched a claim of sex discrimination against eight-partner Peterborough firm Hegarty & Co after discovering that three male conveyancing clerks were being paid £21,000 and had company cars while she was being paid only £19,000.

Braithwaite, who was not available to speak to The Lawyer last week, reportedly claimed that she was earning the same in fees, if not more, than the men.

She was also reported to have said that the senior partner, Richard Hegarty, the former chair of the Law Society's property and commercial services committee, had been sympathetic to her case but had been unable to persuade some of his partners.

Eileen Pembridge, Law Society councillor, said: “The fact that even Richard Hegarty, a member of the Law Society Council, could not persuade his partners shows the extent of the problem and the tenacity with which some of these views are held.

“It is astonishing, but unfortunately it reflects the sort of views too often expressed in council.”

The Law Society's anti-discrimination rule states that principal solicitors in private practice must not discriminate on grounds of sex, sexual orientation, race or disability and must set up a policy to avoid such discrimination.

The society's equal opportunities officer, Marcia Williams, said: “The rule clearly says you must not discriminate on grounds of sex. Sexual inequality in pay would be a breach of the rules.”

A spokeswoman for the OSS said that no complaint had been lodged about Hegarty's firm.

Hegarty was unavailable for comment.