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Equal Pay

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[Thanks to David Campion of EAD Solicitors for preparing this case summary.] 

The Court of Appeal has handed down its decision in St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust v Brownbill, which restates the proposition that for the purposes of equal pay, a distinct term within a Claimant's contract can be less favourable than a comparable, distinct term within a comparator's contract, irrespective of whether the Claimant's contract is, as a whole, more favourable. 

Five female hospital workers sought to claim equal pay. Although the Claimants received higher basic hourly pay and, all but one, received higher overall pay than their male comparators, the Claimants all received less pay per hour for weekend work and unsocial hours, in respect of which the Claimants claimed equal pay. 

As a preliminary issue, the ET rejected the Claimants' contention that there was a term within their contracts relating to unsocial hours which was less favourable than a similar term in their comparators' contracts. The ET held that in reality the Claimants' enhancements formed part of their normal working hours and basic pay. This decision was overturned by the EAT, with whom the CA agreed, who held that the terms relating to unsocial hours and weekends were discrete and comparable. 

The CA held that in line with the House of Lord's decision in Hayward v Cammell Laird Shipbuilders Limited [1988] AC 894, that the terms in the Claimants' contracts were distinct and capable of comparison and therefore should not all be "lumped together". The CA stressed that equal pay is focused on each distinct term relating to remuneration as opposed to the totality of pay received.