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1,100 women win equality claim as council agrees to pay up

Eleven hundred female local authority workers have won an equal pay claim after discovering that men in comparable jobs were receiving bonuses.

The women were all employed by Sheffield City Council as school lunchtime staff, cleaners and carers. The council introduced a productivity scheme for a section of workers, including street cleaners and gardeners, who were predominantly male.

It argued that this did not contravene equality law because the bonuses could not be applied to the women due to the nature of their work.

Both the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal rejected the women’s claims on the basis that the bonus scheme was a genuine initiative to increase productivity among a group of local authority workers who just happened to be male. It was not therefore tainted by any issues relating to sex.

The women refused to accept the decision, however, and took the case to the Court of Appeal, which ruled in their favour.

It held that the tribunal decisions were perverse because the productivity bonus created a disparity of pay between the men and the women - even though that had not been the intention when it was introduced. The authority had failed to show that the scheme was objectively justified.

The Council initially intended to take the case to the Supreme Court but it has now decided to accept the Appeal Court’s decision and settle with the 1,100 workers involved. The women will now receive back pay to compensate for the bonuses they should have received.

The case could help strengthen the equal pay claims of thousands of other women across the country.

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