Accountant wins £25,000 in equal pay case

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Bridget Bodman, a former accountant at manufacturing company API Group, has won £25,000 in a highly unusual equal pay case.

Usually the comparator a claimant is required to produce is someone doing a similar role, at the same time, on higher pay.

But Ms Bodman, whose action was supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), was able to use her male successor’s remuneration package to make an equal pay claim.

The idea of a ‘successor claim’ has been around since the 1996 case of Diocese of Hallam Trustee v Connaughton but has only been used in a handful of cases.

Ms Bodman joined API Group in April 2000 as a group accountant and was promoted to financial controller in March 2001.

She became suspicious about the salary and benefits offered to her replacement as group accountant and requested the company fill out an equal pay questionnaire.

Her successor, a male employee, was paid £8,000 more than her, received an £8,640 car allowance and additional benefits.

The tribunal found the company had no defence for the difference in salaries. It said: “The absence of both clear criteria and process for determining pay awards and bonus payments creates a climate where pay discrimination on gender grounds can operate, consciously or unconsciously, unsuspected, undetected and unchallenged.

“The absence of any of the checks and balances recommended by the EOC in the code of practice, and the absence of any systems or process of the company’s own devising, makes it extremely hard for the company to rebut the taint of sex discrimination.”

Jenny Watson, chairman of the EOC said: “This case demonstrates that equal pay is not simply about people working side-by-side being paid the same salary for doing the same job.

“Employers can, of course, continue to conduct individual pay negotiations with new members of staff. But they must always have both good record keeping and a clear justification for the decision they reach if they are to comply with equal pay law.

“Transparency can be a particular challenge for private sector employers where fewer employers undertake equal pay reviews and where research shows the pay gap is significantly higher.

“This tribunal decision sends out a clear message for employers to ensure that their pay systems are transparent, otherwise they leave themselves open to costly claims.”

Ms Bodman also brought a second claim based on her role as financial controller in which she was paid less than her predecessor. The tribunal found that the difference in salary was due to a material factor which was not the difference in sex.

But the material factor did not account for the difference in car allowance and contributory pension scheme and she won that part of her claim.

Ms Bodman said: “I am delighted to win my equal pay case. Although the process has been a long and stressful experience, I felt I had to make a stand against my former employer for ignoring the law.

“I hope that other companies will learn from this settlement and pay their staff fairly so that employees do not have to resort to bringing them to court.”

Following the case, the EOC advises employers to:

  • Ensure pay systems are transparent: employees should understand not only their rate of pay but also the components of their individual pay packets. It avoids uncertainty, perceptions of unfairness and reduces the possibility of individual claims.
  • Identify high risk areas by carrying out an equal pay review – which will identify the differences in pay which are unjustifiable and justifiable.

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