A finance administrator whose male replacement was paid £3,500 more than her while fulfilling an essentially identical role was discriminated against under equal pay law, Leeds Employment Tribunal has found.
Ms J Broom was initially employed as an office administrator at Wakefield-based care provider Alternative Care Ltd from 1 February 2016. She passed through several different roles before becoming finance administrator/financial manager at the end of 2017, with her salary being raised from £16,500 to £18,000 in line with her promotion.
After nearly two years with the organisation, Broom submitted her resignation in January 2018. Alternative Care Ltd initially advertised for a new office administrator, but did not include financial qualifications as a requirement, as it was not viewed as a like-for-like role.
The director of Alternative Care, Gaynor Smith, then decided to approach her daughter’s partner, Kieren Sartori, to fill the role, with the intention of ensuring it remained a family business into the future.
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Sartori accepted the offer, with official documentation stating he would be appointed as a finance administrator. The offer came with a £21,500 salary – £3,500 more than Broom had been paid.
After it was announced Sartori would transition into Broom’s role, it became part of Broom’s responsibility to handle payroll, at which stage she learned her replacement was being paid significantly more than she had been.
Smith’s ex-husband, finance director and co-director David Hodgson, reported Broom had described this as a “kick in the teeth,” and worried the news might prompt her to cut short her notice and leave the organisation on bad terms. In an email to Smith, he posed the rhetorical question: “Why is it that everything we do seems to be so controversial?”
Broom submitted a formal grievance to the organisation on 16 February, and for a short period worked alongside Sartori while fulfilling her notice period. During this period, Sartori was shadowing Broom, who, the tribunal agreed, effectively “trained him to take over from her”.
At tribunal, Broom produced a detailed job description itemising the tasks she fulfilled, which Sartori agreed broadly corresponded with his daily duties, placing him in a like-for-like role.
Alternative Care maintained that Sartori was recruited to a senior and strategic role with the intention that he would be an eventual successor to Hodgson, and perhaps to Smith – therefore preserving the family business – justifying his higher salary.
However, the tribunal found that as this did not come into practical effect during the training period – when Broom functioned “to all intents and purposes” as the financial manager – the two were fulfilling identical tasks.
“Looking at practically what the two jobs entailed, determining that any differences that did arise in relation to qualifications or any further duties that Mr Sartori was expected to conduct in the near future at the end of the Claimant’s employment are not of practical significance,” Employment Judge Lancaster said.
“We conclude that this is indeed like work. It is broadly similar. In fact, to all intents and purposes it is the same job.”
Alternative Care said it had been necessary to pay the enhanced rate to Sartori in order to fill the role, as he would not move for the existing salary – but the tribunal found there should have been “no difficulty” in recruiting at a lower rate. The role was not advertised externally and no steps were taken to approach alternative candidates, nor was Broom’s pay bumped up following Sartori’s appointment.
“On the facts of this case, when a man asks to be paid more, he is,” Judge Lancaster said.
Broom was awarded compensation of £390.40 in respect of the notice period she worked with Sartori.