Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

Mothers lose rights to equal pay

Women who take maternity leave can expect lower pay as a result, the European Court of Justice has ruled. The ruling states that experience is an acceptable way of setting an employee’s pay.

The court rejected a claim by health and safety inspector Bernadette Cadman from Manchester that it was wrong to pay more to male staff who had been working longer. Four years ago Ms Cadman discovered that men in the same post were earning up to £9000 more than her. She won her employment tribunal at the time, but the appeal has now reached the European court.

Ms Cadman said the policy amounted to sex discrimination as women were more likely to have less experience as a result of taking maternity leave and breaks for childcare responsibilities. The European court said employers did not have to justify paying longer-serving male workers more than female employees for doing the same work, because experience “enables the worker to perform his duties better.” Exceptions could be made if “the worker provides evidence capable of raising serious doubts in that regard”.

Ms Cadman told the Guardian newspaper that the case was “not about winning compensation, but about recognition that women should not be paid less than their male counterparts.”

Leena Linnainmaa, president of the European Women Lawyers’ Association, said that the situation could only be more equal if men were encouraged to take paternity leave. “The fact that women take maternity leave is a great burden on their careers,” she said. The case will now go back to the Court of Appeal.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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