A lecturer in Human Resource Management, who claimed she was paid less than a male colleague, has lost her case at the WRC, with the adjudicator finding she failed to make a prima facie case of both direct and indirect discrimination.
Currently today, there is now a massive campaign on reducing the gender pay gap in Ireland, which stands at 13.9%. As we await the official release of the gender pay gap information bill, there are already a number of gender pay claims that are coming to light. What this article aims to highlight is that not all pay differences are solely based on gender.
As this act gains momentum people in the workplace may be quick to act in making irrational claims justifying the reasoning behind why they are being paid different. However, it is extremely important to explore other reasons behind certain pay differences and not fall victim to the ideology behind gender inequality.
In the following case examined, a female lecture of a highly established college has made a claim against her male colleague that he has been overpaid a total figure of over €140,000 since 2009, her claim is based on gender alone.
This claim of gender pay inequality in the college was brought forward to the Workplace Relation Commission (WRC) for investigation. Shortly after the adjudicator (AO) launched their examination it soon revealed that the reasoning behind the pay difference was not based on the accusation of gender inequality. The AO found a variety of reasons, the main deciding factor being the length of service.
The details of the current pay are as follows. The female lecturer has been employed since 2006, first as an assistant lecturer and then since 2008 as a full-time lecturer receiving the current salary of €79,491 whilst her male colleague is on a salary of €86,400. She also states that she “had” to undertake a PhD which she completed in 2014 and was only reimbursed 50% by the college, while her male colleague voluntarily started the PhD and was reimbursed by 100%.
While at an initial glance and on a prima facie basis it may seem that there are potential grounds for gender pay inequality, however, this case displays how a simple investigation can often prove otherwise.
Prima facie is a term that means “based on the first impression; accepted as correct until proved otherwise”, the college and the WRC now prove otherwise. Providing the following details the college provide basic facts on how the male lecturer’s salary is clearly based on his length of service in the college alone, not his gender.
The male lecturer began his career in 1995 as an associate faculty which grants him over 14 years more experience than the female complainant. Not only based on the length of service but the male lecturer work exceeds the normal 35 hours per week and the norm of 12 hours lecturing per week. The college also made a valid point that out of the four top paid staff in the college three of them are females, removing gender pay discrimination.
The college then challenged the female complainant, disputing the fact that the comparator must be a real individual and not just a member of the opposite sex. However, the court has denied this accusation. The court later revealed the four areas that rationalised the differences in pay were tenure, qualification, experience and publications record. The college also noted that since they have formed with SIPTU in 2015 the female received an increase of €11,324 since 2009 whilst the male’s salary had increased by €1,282 in the same timeline.
The AO concluded the case that the female lecturer “failed to establish a prime facie case of direct discrimination on grounds of gender in relation to equal pay. Nor did she establish a case of indirect discrimination.” Ultimately failing to provide substantial grounds of gender pay inequality the WRC rejected the lecturers claim. This case can be used in the future to highlight the key area’s employees should analyze and to think rationally before making any gender pay gap claim.
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