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Date: 19 June 2012

UNISON members in equal pay victory

UNISON members made further progress in the campaign for equal pay today with an important victory in South Lanarkshire.

Although South Lanarkshire was the first council in Scotland to bring women and men together under a “single status” pay system, the Glasgow Employment Tribunal has ruled that the 2004 South Lanarkshire scheme does not comply fully with subsequent advances in equality law.

Although this preliminary ruling does not award compensation to any individual worker, it does enable any council employee to compare their pay with colleagues employed in work of equal value and the council must now explain all pay differences on an individual basis.

Commenting on the 247 page judgement from the tribunal Mike Kirby, UNISON Scottish Secretary, said:

“There is a lesson here for all employers. It is not enough to unify pay systems for the mutual benefit of woman and men. True pay equality requires a culture of continuous improvement under which the pay gap between workers is recorded, monitored and, ultimately, closed. Pay systems must also be transparent – every worker has the right to look at the salary scale and understand how they are paid and why. And every worker has the right to know how comparable workers are paid and why.

“South Lanarkshire received credit for being an early implementer of single status but changes to case law and regulation have raised the bar since 2004. It is clear from the tribunal ruling that the council has some work to do if it is to deliver equality in a transparent manner. UNISON looks forward to delivering those changes in partnership where possible while negotiating compensation for any member underpaid in the past.”

Peter Hunter, UNISON Regional Organiser, said:

“While we recognise this is just a preliminary hearing on the design of the pay system and not an outright victory for individual workers, we call on the council to abandon its adversarial posture. Further litigation will only entrench past positions and delay transparency, equality and justice for workers. It would be a tragedy if further progress on equality was thwarted by years of expensive appeals and individual litigation.” 


Notes to editors

1.    UNISON is Scotland’s leading pursuer of equal pay claims with over 25,000 ongoing tribunal cases.

2.    UNISON rejected single status pay systems in 75 per cent of Scottish councils and is actively pursuing “continuous improvement” in every Scottish council through a combination of measures including negotiation, appeals, reviews and litigation.

3.    Although Russell v South Lanarkshire Council is already one of the longest equal pay cases in Scottish legal history it is only at a preliminary stage. 

4.    The Equality Act 2010 offers employers a complete defence to all equal value claims if they can show they operate an equality proofed pay system. The Russell case is limited in effect as it only removes this initial bar on equal value claims. All claims must now be assessed on an individual basis. No equal value comparators have been established and all individual claims can be defended where the employer can justify individual pay differences in a non-discriminatory way.

5.    UNISON Scotland’s campaign for transparency and continuous improvement in pay equality relies on the mandatory provisions of The Equality Act 2010 (Statutory Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 which require: the proactive elimination of pay inequality; publication of an equal pay policy; annual publication of the pay gap between women and men; publication of target outcomes for pay equality; involvement of workers in the delivery of pay equality; gathering of evidence of progress on pay equality; and biennial publication of reports on progress towards pay equality.

For further information please contact
Mike Kirby Scottish Secretary 0739143355 m.kirby@unison.co.uk
Peter Hunter, Regional Organiser (Equal Pay) 07903814118 p.hunter@unison.co.uk