• Male employees win landmark sex discrimination case

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  • 9 Jun 2014
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Employer pays out £460,000 to university workers in equal pay row

Eighteen men who won a landmark multiple sex discrimination case against a Welsh university have been awarded £460,000 in back pay.

In an employment tribunal earlier this year, the caretakers and maintenance workers at University of Wales St David (UWTSD) successfully claimed that they were being paid less than their female colleagues, employed as secretaries and office workers, on an identical pay grade.

After six weeks of financial calculations, each of the 18 men have now received between £27,000 and £31,000, covering six years' service, including pension entitlement.

As part of the settlement, 17 of the employees – one claimant has already retired – will also reportedly see an increase of around £4,000 in their annual wage, to bring them level with their female counterparts.

The claimants are thought to be the biggest group of men to have launched legal action in Britain claiming sexual discrimination.

Employers at the university insisted the difference in pay was not due to gender but down to changes to the men’s contracts.

Representing the university, Peter Wallington QC said: “In light of the evidence…I have taken some further instructions from the respondents who concede the (claim of) equal pay was well founded.”

The men, who were originally employed by Swansea Metropolitan University before it merged with UWTSD in August last year, had been on a minimum 45-hour-a-week contract until new regulations sought to standardise worker’s contracts to a 37-hour working week instead.

University bosses said they would guarantee the men the extra eight hours but class it as overtime pay, however the men realised their hourly rate was less than women who were on the same pay scale and launched a tribunal claim.

A spokesman for UWTSD said it had no involvement in the decisions made by Swansea Metropolitan University in 2007 and was “very disappointed” that the new university had to "deal with the consequences of historical decisions.”

Tradesman Rob Cooze, said he and his colleagues were over the moon with the outcome. "We didn't want it to come to this really but we're glad common sense has prevailed," he said.

"We are just so relieved and can get on with our ordinary working days now. At certain times it did get us down because in the past, we felt like we weren't being listened to."

Representing the university workers, employment lawyer Paul Doran said the case was “unusual”, as the vast majority of equal pay cases involve women claiming to have been underpaid in comparison to men.

“We hope that the tribunal sends out a strong message that discrimination has no place in any form in the workplace," he said.

Commenting on the case, Esther Smith, an employment partner at TLT Solicitors said: "It is  worth noting that whilst there are no specific details of how the award was made up, a significant part of it will be made up of back pay deemed due to the employees, rather than reflecting a more punitive "injury to feelings" award to reflect the discrimination suffered." 

"The case is being reported as a "complex" one, which is not surprising with so many Claimants, and clearly a lot of factual information for the Tribunal to get to grips with before delivering its verdict," she said.

"The decision on liability was delivered in April this year, and the matter of remedy reserved for a separate hearing. This again reflects the complexity of the case and the detailed evidence that undoubtedly needed to be collated in order for the matter of financial compensation to be determined," she added.

Since the tribunal, as many as 13 more employees, including some retired and others on higher grades, have come forward with similar claims.

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Comments (3)
  • Again - logic plays no part in these crazy legal decisions. If men wanted the higher pay then become one of the secretaries or office workers.

    If you are not allowed to compete for the office jobs and you have the same qualifications - then and only then do you have a case

    The whole concept of equal job value is just wrong and defies any sort of logic in supply and demand, its the specific job not the gender of the person doing it that counts.

  • I believe the point is not whether they are doing the same job but whether they are jobs of equal value. According to the grading scheme they were of equal value hence the successful claim.

  • How they were able to take a discrimination claim when the women were doing completely different jobs surprises me. Especially given the contract change. They were getting 8 hrs overtime. Were the women in clerical positions getting OR? and how many hours were they working?