Michelle Smith (outside Reading Employment Tribunal today) was paid £7,500 a year less than a male colleague for doing the same job
A female manager who was paid £7,500 a year less than a male colleague for doing the same job has won her employment tribunal case today.
Michelle Smith, 40, quit after her boss allegedly told her that although she was best suited to the post, her colleague John Tucker would receive higher pay.
She was awarded more than £12,000 after suing Neilson Financial Services in Slough, Berkshire, under the Equal Pay Act and for sexual discrimination.
She claimed at Reading Employment Tribunal that it would take her eight years of pay rises to reach the same level as Mr Tucker.
Miss Smith joined the firm as a sales manager in March 2013 and had held the same position as Mr Tucker since summer 2014 after she was promoted to sales coaching manager.
Less than a year later in January 2015 she was earning £36,267 a year, almost 20 per cent less than Mr Tucker’s £43,947, the tribunal heard.
Once his salary passed £45,000, which it was likely to do following annual pay increases, he would also have access to private healthcare, Miss Smith said.
She told the hearing in Reading: ‘It was clear that there was nothing I could do to prove to Neilson Financial Services that I was worthy of the same salary and benefits as my male counterpart, even though I felt it was unfair.
Miss Smith was awarded more than £12,000 after suing Neilson Financial Services (based in this building in Slough, Berkshire) under the Equal Pay Act and for sexual discrimination
‘Our hiring manager, Tara Stewart, confirmed that my basic salary would increase to £34,000 per annum and apologised that this increase was not as high as the salary Mr Tucker would be receiving as he was already on a higher salary because he was previously a senior sales manager.
‘Tara explained that she was annoyed that she had to take on Mr Tucker, who was the weakest applicant, and having to pay him the highest salary.
‘Based on the benefits matrix at Neilson, private healthcare was provided to salaries above £45,000 and life insurance was provided dependent on level.
‘I would have to receive the standard 3 per cent pay rise for eight more years to reach the threshold and receive the same benefits as Mr Tucker.’
Miss Smith joined the firm as a sales manager in March 2013 and had held the same position as Mr Tucker since summer 2014
Christopher Dawson, head of sales and operations at the firm, said Mr Tucker was being paid more because he had effectively been demoted from his previous senior sales manager position and it was feared he would leave if he was given a lower wage.
Mr Dawson said: ‘I accept that Miss Smith and Mr Tucker were doing the same job from July 2014.
‘However, Mr Tucker was paid more because his senior sales manager salary was ring-fenced. Mr Tucker was not paid more because of his gender.’
He said he discussed the salary disparity with Miss Smith in November 2015 and four days later she acknowledged in an email that ‘it had all made sense’.
But the tribunal ruled in favour of Miss Smith on the grounds of sexual discrimination and her former employer agreed to pay her £12,854 plus interest.
This will cover the earnings Miss Smith missed out on while working in the same position as Mr Tucker.
Judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto said: ‘I have come to the conclusion that the claim was well founded and succeeds on the grounds of sexual discrimination under the Equal Pay Act.
‘There were no other material interests other than her sex that prevented her from earning the same amount as Mr Tucker.
‘We have heard that that the salary for the claimant was lower because of the individual skills. However we were not shown anything to explain that.’
Judge Gumbiti-Zimuto said that he was also concerned over the commission package Mr Tucker was receiving after his six-month probationary period meeting, compared with other staff including Miss Smith.
‘We heard how he (Mr Tucker) was earning around £1,000 per month in commission, while others were only receiving circa £500 a month,’ he said.
The tribunal also heard that Miss Smith had never had any meeting after a probationary period and had had to bring up her pay in meetings herself.
Claire King, a work colleague of Miss Smith, had admitted during the tribunal that she was aware of Mr Tucker’s higher salary but again said this was because it had been ‘ring-fenced.’
She also went on to say that Mr Tucker was more ambitious because Miss Smith had applied for a role that would have seen her take a pay cut.
But Judge Gumbiti-Zimuto said: ‘She can move sideways in her career and still be ambitious. You just said that to make your case better but you cannot mean that, you cannot possibly defend it.’
As she left the tribunal, Miss Smith, from Slough, declined to comment on her victory. The company had denied the discrimination claims.