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Cath Everett

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Dinnerladies win discrimination case over Council


A ‘groundbreaking’ ruling, which found a Yorkshire council guilty of sex discrimination for paying bonuses to men but not women, could open the way for similar compensation claims across the country.

The Appeal Court backed a claim that 13 female carers and dinnerladies working for Sheffield City Council had been subjected to discrimination because they were not given bonuses to boost productivity. This was despite the fact that their male colleagues, who undertook manual work in areas such as gardening and refuse collection, were.
Lord Justice Pill found that pay inequality between males and females employed in equivalent roles at the local authority was ‘tainted by sex’, although he accepted that the disparity created by the bonus arrangements was unintentional. “The effect of the productivity bonus…is discriminatory. A sexual taint is present,” Lord Justice Pill added.
Female carers have been paid up to 38% less than their male counterparts since the 1960s.
But Sheffield City Council had argued that that its bonus scheme had nothing to do with gender, insisting instead that it was simply not practical to pay carers as their productivity was not measurable.
It had been cleared of sexual discrimination by an employment tribunal last year, but the test case will now be referred back to another for a fresh decision.
Public sector union, Unison, claimed that the ‘ground-breaking’ decision would now open the door for about 2,000 female workers in Sheffield Council alone to file similar compensation claims, leading to a potential bill of £20 million.
If the next employment tribunal found in the female carers favour, however, tens of thousands of women in similar circumstances across the country would be entitled to follow suit over the next six years, leading to huge liabilities.
Sheffield said that it was considering a fresh appeal to try and overturn the ruling.


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