Case watch

On this page you will find key cases and sources of information on them.

Paczkowska and Golygowska v Avoca Handweavers (NI) Ltd

Two women working in a Belfast café have won an equal pay claim against their employer, Avoca Handweavers (NI) Ltd with the support of the Equality Commission.

Paulina Paczkowska and Agnieszka Anna Golygowska both worked as floor staff/baristas in the Avoca Café. By 2015, Paulina was earning £6.79 per hour and Agnieszka £6.98 per hour, while their male colleague was earning £8.46.

Both women tried to resolve the matter without going to court by taking out a grievance against the company, but their grievances were dismissed; they lodged claims with the Tribunal and their trade union referred them to the Northern Ireland Equality Commission for help.

Avoca conceded that it did not have a structured pay scheme within the business. The firm also admitted that the three employees were all doing like work and accepted that there was a disparity in pay between the man and the women but claimed that material factors other than the sex of the staff, including the fact that the comparator had asked for more money,  were the reason for the disparity.

The Tribunal ruled that the factors cited by Avoca could not explain the difference in the pay rates and awarded the women equal pay to that paid to their male colleague from May 2013.

You can read the full decision here.

McCloud and Others V Ministry of Justice and the Lord Chancellor

In a case which may have far-reaching ramifications, on the 16th January 2016, the Employment Tribunal upheld the claims of over 200 judges for unlawful age, race and sex discrimination and equal pay against the Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice in relation to changes made to their pension entitlements.

The Tribunal held that the Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice had discriminated against younger judges, a significant number of whom were female and/or from minority ethnic groups, by requiring them to leave the Judicial Pension Scheme in April 2015 whilst allowing older judges to remain in that Scheme, and that this discrimination could not be justified.

The Tribunal found that the changes caused younger judges to suffer a disproportionate loss to their pensions purely because they were younger.

You can find the Tribunal decision here.

Brierley v Asda stores Ltd

An Employment Tribunal has held that employees at Asda stores may use employees at Asda distribution depots as comparators in their claims of equal pay for work of equal value. The Tribunal rejected Asda’s argument that the different locations were a bar to the claim and found that Asda’s board acted as a single source for the pay of both applicants and comparators.

It is estimated that over 7000 applicants are involved, and the decision paves the way for their claims to go ahead.

You can read the decision here. 

29th edition of Discrimination: a guide to the relevant case law 

Michael Rubenstein’s  annual Discrimination Guide is now available and, as usual, contains a comprehensive section on equal pay.

The Guide  extracts from the thousands of discrimination cases decided over the years the main principles concerning employment discrimination that still can be regarded as binding authority. The Guide is free with a subscription to Equal Opportunities Review, or retails independently at £137.

Supreme Court grants appeal on Employment Tribunal Fee Regime

26th February 2016

The Supreme Court has granted Unison permission to continue its legal challenge to the employment tribunal fees regime introduced in 2013.

In August 2015 the Court of Appeal had rejected Unison’s claim that the employment tribunal fees regime is unlawful. Although Lord Justice Underhill said he had a strong suspicion that the large decline in tribunal cases must reflect at least some cases of individuals who cannot afford to pay the fees, there was no evidence before the Court on which it could form any reliable view about the numbers of such cases, or how typical they might be.

The appeal has not yet been listed for a hearing by the Supreme Court.

Justice Committee Inquiry into Tribunal Fees

The Justice Committee has recently held an inquiry into the effects of the introduction and levels of tribunal fees and charges. In respect of employment tribunal fees the Committee inquired into the impact of the introduction of fees on access to justice.

In its report, published in June 2016, the Committee found that, despite inconsistencies in the evidence the introduction of issue fees and hearing fees for claimants in employment tribunals as of 29 July 2013 led to an undisputed and precipitate drop in the number of cases brought, approaching 70 per cent. The number of single cases brought declined by about 67 per cent to around 4,500 per quarter from October 2013 to June 2015; and the number of multiple cases declined by 72 per cent, from 1,500 per quarter in the year leading to June 2013 to around 400 per quarter since October 2013. Most equal pay claims will be part of a multiple claim.

The Committee also said that taking into account relevant changes in employment law and an underlying trend predating the introduction of fees showing an ongoing gentle reduction in cases being taken to tribunal, the timing and size of the drop in the number of cases brought places the onus of proof on those who would argue that the drop is not primarily attributable to the introduction of fees.

You can find the chapter on the impact of employment tribunal fees here.

The Committee recommended that employment tribunal fees be substantially reduced, that the binary classification of cases be replaced, and that the disposable capital and monthly income thresholds for fee remission should be increased.

You can find the Committee’s recommendations here. 

All of the evidence submitted to the Committee is also publicly available, and you can find it here.

The Justice Committee is now awaiting a response from the Government.


Last updated 17th February 2017