Councils will find it harder to justify pay discrepancies for care workers and other female-dominated jobs following a judgement against Sheffield Council, a lawyer has said.
Chris Benson, solicitor at London law firm Leigh Day and Co, said the practice of paying bonuses to low-paid jobs traditionally occupied by men, such as refuse collectors, but not to care staff, most of whom are women, could be stopped as a result.
In a recent hearing at the Court of Appeal, female care workers and dinner ladies from Sheffield Council, backed by Unison, successfully argued that the authority’s pay structure was sexist.
The court dismissed Sheffield Council’s argument that there was no gender bias and the only reason for paying bonuses to gardeners but not care workers and other female-dominated jobs was that it was not practical to do so.
Benson said the council’s policy was “inherently discriminatory”, adding that there were about 100,000 claimants challenging similar pay schemes involving up to 150 councils across the UK.
“The judgement means that councils will have to objectively justify the thinking process behind their policies. The common argument is that it’s just a coincidence that these jobs which aren’t paid bonuses are done by women, and it’s nothing to do with gender,” he added.
“Sheffield Council argued that the bonuses would encourage binmen to work more quickly, but care work couldn’t be rushed – it takes as long as it takes.
“But it’s clear that local authorities already allocate care workers certain amounts of time to see different clients.”
A spokesperson for Sheffield Council said the authority was considering appealing against the decision.