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Hospital workers win discrimination claim over bonus payments

A group of hospital workers have won their claim that they were the victims of indirect sex discrimination when their employer cut their bonus payments.

The women all worked as hospital domestics for Newcastle NHS Hospitals Trust. They brought their claim after the Trust cut their bonus payments but continued giving bonuses to male porters who carried out work of similar value.

The Trust said it had to remove the women’s bonuses in order to compete with outside bidders in a tendering exercise for domestic services. That bid did not affect portering services and it had not been possible later to remove the differential that had been created.

It put forward a "genuine material factor" which tried to show that the difference in bonus payments was due to genuine, practical factors which were unrelated to the sex of the employees.

However, that defence has been rejected by the Employment Appeal Tribunal. It held that the withdrawal of the bonuses was designed to bring the women’s pay into line with the market rate for domestics.

However, that in itself was discriminatory because, as would be obvious to the Trust, that sector was made up almost entirely of women who received less than men who did jobs of equal value.

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