Equal Pay Complaint

Employment Law – Equal Pay Complaint – Grievance Procedure – Procedure – Grievance Submitted by Email


The case of Bottomley and Others v Wakefield District Housing [2008] concerned a complaint about unequal pay. According to s.32 of the Employment Act 2002 (“the 2002 Act”):

“(2) An employee shall not present a complaint to an employment tribunal under a jurisdiction to which this section applies if:

(a) it concerns a matter in relation to which the requirement in paragraph 6... of Schedule 2 applies, and

(b) the requirement has not been complied with”.

According to paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 to the Employment Act 2002:

“The employee must set out the grievance in writing and send the statement or a copy of it to the employer”.

The employees in this case were public sector workers, and up to the 21 March 2005, they had been employed by the local authority. Their contracts of employment were transferred to the local housing association after that date. The local housing association then became their employer.

In 2006, the employees raised an issue regarding their pay with a firm of solicitors (“the Firm”). The text contained in a letter dated the 26 September, which was signed by the head partner of the Firm, stated as follows:

“I enclose statutory grievance on behalf of my clients [the clients are named]... please acknowledge safe receipt”.

Attached to that letter was a document entitled '[the authority's] statutory grievance.' This document was intended to provide a demonstration of the 'grades' of work under which the employees wished to be paid.

On the same date as the letter, the head partner of the Firm sent an e-mail addressed to the chief executive of the local housing association. The e-mail contained the heading 'statutory grievance', and stated as follows:

“Please find attached correspondence regarding statutory grievances on behalf of two clients”.

The chief executive acknowledged receipt of the e-mail. Following that acknowledgement, the employees brought claims for equal pay before the employment tribunal.

The employer argued that the tribunal did not have jurisdiction to hear the employees’ claims due to the fact that the grievance did not comply with the statutory regime, specifically s.32(2) of, and paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 to, the 2002 Act.

The employment judge agreed with the employer’s argument. The judge stated that the correspondence which had been sent by the employees to the authority and to the employer could not reasonably be interpreted as requiring action to have been taken in response to a grievance. Accordingly, the judge struck out the employee’s claims.

The employees then appealed against that decision.

On appeal, the issue to be decided was whether the employees had properly presented their grievances to the employer prior to bringing their claim before the employment tribunal. The presentation of any grievance to an employer before bringing a claim is a requirement as stipulated in the 2002 Act. In particular, a 'step 1 statement of a grievance' should be lodged.

The appeal was allowed.

It was held that it was settled law that the requirements for a 'step 1 statement of a grievance' were minimal. This meant that in this case, the employment judge had required too much from the employees.

The employees had a grievance, that grievance had been set out in written statements and had been signed. Copies of those statements were subsequently sent by e-mail to both the authority and the employer. In such circumstances, it was decided that the step 1 requirements had been met by the employees. As a result, the employment tribunal’s decision was set aside.

If you require further information please contact us at enquiries@rtcoopers.com or Visit http://www.rtcoopers.com/practice_employment.php

© RT COOPERS, 2008. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.


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