£250K awarded to female solicitor paid less than male colleagues

By Gary Adair

A female solicitor at one of Northern Ireland’s most well know commercial law firms has been awarded £250,000 by an Industrial Tribunal in Belfast.

The payment, made up of a mixture of backdated salary adjustments and general arrears, was awarded to Mrs Margaret Mercer after she clearly demonstrated that she was being paid less than her male colleagues despite performing equal work and sharing equal responsibility.

Mrs Mercer, a partner at the reputable Belfast-based firm, raised initial concerns regarding her pay arrangements as well as issues related to the transparency of hiring practices at the firm, as promotions seemed to be taking place without any formal selection or announcement process.

The latter is evidence by the unadvertised and unannounced promotion of two of Mrs Mercer’s comparators. Mrs Mercer was informed that she did not meet the eligibility criteria for such a promotion, and she only found out about her peers’ promotions through the office rumour mill some time later.

Mrs Mercer informed the firm that she wanted to be paid the same salary as her male comparators based on the fact that they were performing the same work with the same qualifications, but the firm disputed that the work performed was equal.

The Industrial Tribunal in Belfast found that Mrs Mercer was indeed employed undertaking the same work as all of her peers, and had been since her initial promotion to salaried partner in 2009.

This result should serve as a cautionary tale to employers across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK in a number of ways. Primarily, it illustrates that the gender pay gap and pay parity for like work are still very present throughout all levels of work in Northern Ireland. Additionally, it highlights the need for transparency in hiring practices as a means to ensuring a healthy and competitive work environment.

Finally, it could perhaps inspire employees throughout Northern Ireland to be vocal in raising their grievances, whether it be an issue of discrimination, pay parity, or even unfair dismissal. It should illustrate that employee rights are crucial and that employers will face serious consequences for not protecting them.

If you require legal advice from an employment law solicitor in Northern Ireland about a matter of inequality, discrimination or other matter, contact Wilson Nesbitt solicitors in Belfast or Bangor by clicking here.