Page last updated at 21:17 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 22:17 UK

Male workers win equal pay claims

Pay claims were first made by female cleaners, dinner ladies and caretakers

A "landmark" legal decision involving three councils in the north east of England could pave the way for 12,000 men to take forward equal pay claims.

Financial settlements had earlier been agreed for women workers paid less than men doing similar work.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has now ruled that 300 other male workers were discriminated against as they then remained on lower pay than the women.

The councils involved were Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and South Tyneside.

The men, who were working in jobs such as care assistants, caretakers, drivers and leisure attendants, had lodged discrimination claims about bonuses paid to male workers in better paid jobs such as gardeners and refuse collectors.

This was at the same time as women in low paid jobs, who were also claiming that the bonuses were discriminatory.

'Piggy back'

Whilst the women's case succeeded and they were offered financial settlements, the men were not.

This left them in a worse financial situation than the women, as well as the better-paid men.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that the 300 men should have been offered the same back pay as the women.

These claims are sometimes called piggy back claims as the men "piggy back" on the successful women's claims.

Mr Justice Underhill said: "It would be surprising and unsatisfactory if the [Equal Pay] Act offered no remedy to men in a situation like the present.

"The case where men and women do the same job but receive different rates of pay is the paradigm of the kind of situation which the Act was intended to prevent, how would it seem if the roles were reversed and the 'piggyback' claimants were not men but women?"

Lawyers involved, from the Cloister Chambers, have described it as a landmark ruling which will have a bearing on many other cases, and could cost councils hundreds of millions of pounds.

Yvette Genn from Cloisters said: "This ruling is what thousands of male workers who have not received equal pay up and down the country have been waiting for.

"There is no doubt that many of the similar 12,000 cases in the system will now proceed and are likely to be successful."

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