Unequal pay brought to book

Companies that actively discriminate against women in pay schemes could be challenged in court after a legal victory for two sets of female public sector workers in the North East.

The Court of Appeal found in favour of the groups of school cleaners and crossing patrol staff working for two councils in the region - Redcar and Cleveland and Middlesbrough - who could now receive compensation of up to £2m.

The dispute centred around the single status agreement signed in 1997, which made local authorities commit to equal pay for women. Under this arrangement, some councils cut the rate of pay for men but introduced a protection plan for those affected.

Lord Justice Mummery decided this still meant women were being discriminated against in the period when pay remained unequal, a process that lasted several years.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission stressed that companies could still make such transitional arrangements, as long as they were deemed to be fair.

The ruling could have implications for all businesses that operate such pay policies.

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