Caven blog

University concedes sex discrimination case to male workers

In what is a twist on the traditional assumption in sex discrimination cases, twenty-three men have been successful in their £500,000 claim against a Welsh university.

The men originally worked as tradesmen and caretakers at Swansea Metropolitan University, which merged with the University of Wales Trinity St David (UWTSD).

Previously, the University had made contractual changes resulting in their being paid less per hour than female secretarial staff at the same grade. Over the years this effectively caused a significant loss in earnings for the men.

UWTSD (who weren’t responsible for the original change in contract but took on responsibility after the merger) initially claimed that the pay difference was not due to sex discrimination.

However, in April 2014 they made an announcement that they would no longer contest the case at the employment tribunal.

The men’s solicitor said: “While it is disappointing that they were required to take it all the way to tribunal to get such an admission, the acknowledgment that they were right all along will be just as enjoyable as the compensation that they will receive.”

A landmark case

It is not unheard of for men to make sex discrimination claims for equal pay, but this is considered a landmark case due to the large number of claimants. The attention received by the case could prompt other male workers with similar grievances to take action.

The Equal Pay Act 1970 prohibits employers from paying workers differently for the same job on the basis of their gender. This includes work of equal value or rated as equivalent, which is why the blue-collar workers in this case could claim equal pay with female secretarial staff.

Taking action against sex discrimination

Despite decades of workplace legislation, unequal pay for men and women persists. In this case a university – which should be leading the way on fair treatment of workers - admitted doing this on a large scale, which shows the level of the problem.

Many people feel reluctant to rock the boat even in the face of obvious pay discrimination. For men in particular there seems to be a stigma against using sex discrimination legislation which is sometimes wrongly perceived as only protecting women.

You should not be afraid to take action if you are subject to sexual discrimination at work. Prudent employers will rectify pay inequalities when their attention is drawn to them without the need for a Tribunal.

If you want to talk to someone about your situation, call us on 08001 221 2299. We will be able to give you some advice, and put you in touch with an employment lawyer if you have a case.

Related articles:

Caven - sex discrimination

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