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Co-Op HR Director wins equal pay and unfair dismissal claim

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Following a three-year legal battle, the former Co-Operative Group HR Director, Sam Walker, has won her claim for equal pay and unfair dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal has held that the Co-Op “directly discriminated against Sam Walker on the ground of sex” after the company told her that she had only “partially achieved” what had been requested of her, despite never having an adequate annual appraisal.

Mrs Walker claimed she was unfairly dismissed after raising issues about her pay and warning other senior staff that the company might be paying men and women differently even though they were carrying out the same roles.

After querying the difference in pay between herself and the male executives that sat alongside her on the board in 2014, she was told this was because she was newly promoted.  However, an independent assessment of the executive roles in 2015 found that her role was comparable.

The Tribunal held that Mrs Walker had “gained the right to equal pay” with the male executives.  This led to the decision by the Employment Tribunal in Manchester that Sam Walker was unfairly dismissed by her employer; that her work was equal to that of her comparators and that her employer had directly discriminated on the ground of sex.

This case is a great example showing that, regardless of status or size of a company, they can still be at risk of being held liable for not paying their staff equally. The right to equal pay is something that employers need to be aware of, particularly as there is a requirement for companies with over 250 staff to report annually on their gender pay gap.  For more information on equal pay, see our blog Equal Pay – An Issue Businesses Cannot Afford to Ignore

If you require any advice on the issues above or any other area of Employment Law, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Chattertons’ Employment Team.

Case: Mrs Samantha Walker v Co-Operative Group Ltd and Richard Pennycook 2403044/2016