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Ben Patrick acted for Bury women in equal pay claim
Who? Ben Patrick, employment lawyer at trade union Unison, responsible for overseeing some 40,000 individual equal pay claims against local authorities.
Why is he in the news? Bury Metropolitan Borough Council - after five years and an estimated legal bill of more than £1m - has finally settled the equal pay claims of nearly 1,000 low-paid female workers.
Patrick said that Bury and other councils blamed ‘market forces’ for creating a climate of ‘historical pay discrimination’ that led to men being paid more than women. Nonetheless, the Equal Pay Act has been in force since 1970 and councils, like other employers, are subject to it, he said.
Council leader Mike Connolly said: ‘I hope that these settlement offers will be accepted and that we can now move on and work together, as we always have, for the good of Bury and its people.’
Thoughts on the case: ‘This case is groundbreaking in that it emphasises to employers that they can no longer defend paying women less than men without objectively justifying it as a proportionate means to achieving a legitimate aim. The problem with Bury and other councils is their cases started so long ago they are still being decided under the old Equal Pay Act. The Equality Act 2010 makes it absolutely clear that employers must make this objective justification.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘To make a difference for working people.’
Career high: ‘Drafting legislative changes around the requirement for employers objectively to justify differences in pay. These changes are now part of the Equality Act.’
Career low: ‘Visiting a sewage works that was malfunctioning and emitting foul smells. I was a construction lawyer for a City firm at the time.’