Labour Research November 2004

Equality news

"Far-reaching" equal pay case will go to European court

A female health and safety inspector has been given leave to take her equal pay claim to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), in a case described by her solicitor as "the most important equal pay claim to be brought in the last 10 years".

The case, taken by Bernadette Cadman, concerns seniority-based pay systems. Such systems have been shown to have an adverse impact on women, who commonly take time out of work for raising children.

Cadman, who has worked for the Health and Safety Executive for 12 years, brought the claim after learning that she was being paid £5,000 to £7,000 a year less than the average salary of male colleagues on the same grade.

She is being supported by her union, Prospect, and its solicitors Russell Jones & Walker. Paul Noon, general secretary of Prospect, said: "This is a big step forward in the continuing battle for equal pay for women. The Court of Appeal has indicated support for our case that it is wrong for employers to discriminate against women over pay on the basis of seniority, without objective justification."

Noon added that, if Cadman wins her case at the ECJ, "it will have far reaching consequences, particularly for seniority-based public sector pay systems."