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South Ayrshire Council v Morton Equal Pay Act Comparators

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The Court of Session has handed down its decision in the seminal Equal Pay case of Soith Ayrshire Council v Morton, upholding the decision of the employment tribunal and the EAT.

Ms Morton was the headmistress of a Scottish primary school. Primary school teachers (who, statistically, are mostly female) are paid less than secondary school teachers (who, statistically, are mostly male). She brought a claim under the Equal Pay Act 1970, citing a male headmaster of a secondary school as one of her comparators. The headmaster was employed by a different education authority (one of 32 in Scotland). However, terms as to pay are negotiated nationally, not by each education authority separately, and bind all the educations authorities.

Could an employee from another education authority be used as a comparator under the Equal Pay Act 1970?

Yes. Following the reasoning of the ECJ in Defrenne v Sabena, the scope of an enquiry under the Equal Pay Act 1970 need not always be confined to the Claimant's own workplace, or to his own employer. Where collective bargaining units exist, any employee who falls within that collective bargaining unit may relied upon as a comparator.

The decision is available from the Court of Session website, here.

[Thanks to Stuart Neilson of McGrigor Donald, solicitors for Ms Morton, for notifying me of this decision]