Employment Cases Update

Co-Operative Group Ltd and another v Walker UKEAT/0087/19/RN

Date published: 22/11/2019

Appeal against the ET’s decision relating to an equal pay dispute between the Respondent and the Appellants. Appeal allowed.

The Respondent was a senior employee, and member of the Executive Committee, of the Appellants at a time of financial crisis, although her salary was lower than that of other members of the Committee. Having survived the crisis, the Appellants reviewed the Respondent's role, which led to a dispute between the parties and, ultimately, the Respondent's dismissal. The Respondent brought various claims in the ET, including that her work was of equal value to two other members of the Committee. The ET accepted that the Respondent's work was of equal value to her comparators, according to an independent study in 2015, but it was persuaded that the Appellants had established that there were "material factors" that justified the different salaries in 2014. Further, the ET identified that the Respondent's role had increased in importance relative to her comparators, and concluded that the explanations for the pay differential in 2014 were no longer material at the time of the 2015 study. The Appellants appealed.

The EAT held that the ET erred in basing its decision on the finding that there had been a slide from a position where material factors justified the pay differential between the Respondent and her comparators, to a position about a year later where the original justifications had gone; it stated that a new decision must be made which is tainted by sex discrimination before a prior legitimate decision can be set aside. Accordingly, the Appellants' appeal in connection with the Respondent's claim for equal pay succeeded.

Read the full text of the judgment on BAILII or download the file by clicking the link below.