A former Network Rail employee has been awarded a £75,000 payout after winning her equal pay case at an employment tribunal last week, as organisations are warned the implementation of gender pay gap reporting next April may trigger an increasing number of pay claims.
Tracey Myers, who previously worked as a training assurance specialist with the company until she was made redundant in 2014, claimed that, from the end of 2007, the gap between her and a male colleague reached as much as 37 per cent.
She had taken Network Rail to tribunal on the grounds of unfair dismissal, harassment and equal pay, but the tribunal found in favour of the company on the first two counts.
Myers told the BBC that she had been aware there was a disparity in what she was being paid compared to male colleagues, but didn’t know the extent of it initially and was shocked when she found out.
Network Rail said it aspires to be inclusive and works hard to ensure it embraces equality at every level, and that it would ensure lessons were learned over equal pay. However, it is the second big tribunal case for the organisation in recent months. In October, a male Network Rail employee was awarded almost £30,000 for sex discrimination after the company offered him only statutory pay during shared parental leave – while mothers were given full pay.
Tim Tyndall, partner at Birketts Solicitors, said the Myers case was an interesting one given the size of the award – particularly because the claimant lost her parallel claims: “However, as is often the case with these well-publicised matters, this case will be very fact-specific, with the size of the award arising from the massive 37 per cent pay differential, which we have to assume at best had never been picked up or, at worst, was barefaced pay discrimination.”
He said it was likely that the auditing process for gender pay gap reporting would pick up this sort of anomaly, “allowing employers to make adjustments to put their house in order”. “If they don’t take that opportunity employees may feel encouraged to try their luck at an employment tribunal,” he added.
From April next year, organisations with 250 or more employees will need to report the overall gender pay gap between all male and female colleagues.
Maria Chadwick, an employment discrimination solicitor at Stephensons, said equal pay and the gender pay gap has become a ‘hot topic’ in recent months. “Much of this is down to the imminent introduction of the Equality Act (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2016 in April 2017,” she said.
"While we are still some months away from the regulations being implemented, in my view, judgments such as this – as well as the strong words and actions from Westminster and law makers in tackling this problem – can only serve to embolden those who believe they have a pay discrimination case.
“As such, while this case might not be ground-breaking when taken in isolation, it is yet another sign that – perhaps belatedly – the issue of the gender pay gap is being taken more seriously and pursuing a case at tribunal is a much more viable option to claimants.”
Echoing those comments, Clare Parkinson, pay expert at legal firm Croner, added: “If companies are not prepared before April 2017 and find unexplainable pay gaps, or if they fail to report on gender pay entirely, the company may be vulnerable to negative publicity and even tribunal claims.”
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