Gibson v Sheffield City Council settles

Scheduled to be heard in the Supreme Court in October 2011, the local authority Equal Pay case Gibson v Sheffield City Council settled shortly before the hearing commenced.

Sheffield City Council appealed to the Supreme Court to determine whether they must objectively justify the difference in pay between predominantly female and male comparator groups performing work of equal value, once they had shown that the genuine material factor for the difference in pay was not sex but historic collective bargaining agreements.

Similar multiple claims are ongoing in relation to a number of NHS Trusts where disparities in pay can often arise due to pre-Agenda for Change collective agreements.  In Emmanuel v City and Hackney PCT, the argument was put forward (unsuccessfully) in the Employment Tribunal that where such discrepancies do arise from past collective pay agreements, then they need not be objectively justified.  It is a blow to many that we have been deprived of the opportunity for the Supreme Court to finally rule on this topic.  There are, however, other cases on this issue scheduled to be heard, including Bury Metropolitan Borough Council v Hamilton; Council of the City of Sunderland v Brennan which is due to go before the Court of Appeal in March 2012, and hopefully some clarity will be established.

St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals NHS Trust v Brownbill and others

This ongoing equal pay case recently went before the Court of Appeal.  In this case, a predominantly female group were paid enhancements for working unsocial hours, although these enhancements were lower than the enhancements paid to a predominantly male comparator group.  These enhancements were expressed as a proportion of the employees’ basic pay.

In fact, the Claimants were in almost all instances actually paid more than their counterparts in the male comparator group due to their higher basic pay.  However, the Court of Appeal still held that the disparities in the enhancements breached Equal Pay legislation, as the focus of Equal Pay law is equality of terms not equality of overall pay actually received.