Police bonus scheme discrimination
Bonus payment schemes that discriminate against women are back in the news. Two women police officers who were denied anti-social hours bonus payments took West Midlands police to a tribunal claiming that the refusal to pay them the bonus was unlawful. The Home Office introduced the bonus scheme in 2003 as part of an initiative to reduce the numbers of police officers absent from work.
Police Officers in the West Midlands get the allowance if they are available to work for more than four hours after midnight. As women with childcare responsibilities neither of the officers in question are able to work after 10.30 pm. In general childcare responsibilities place greater limitations on women's ability to work at unsocial times than men, as women tend to be the main carers of children. As a result policies that require individuals to work unsocial hours have a negative effect on larger numbers of women.
The allowances at the heart of this case known as "special priority payments," range from £500 to £3,000 a year, depending on the rank and duties of the officer. Forty per cent of police officers are entitled to the payments if the work they undertake involves "specially demanding working conditions." In this case the tribunal found that the work carried out by the women officers on a daily basis was just as hard and dangerous as that carried out by the male officers working after midnight. The tribunal concluded that denying the women a bonus - just because they do not work after midnight - is discrimination.
Back pay for bonus scheme discrimination victims
West Midlands police must now offer the women thousands of pounds in back pay to compensate them for the period when they were refused the benefit. West Midlands Police is believed to be considering whether or not to appeal against the judgement.
The judgement may also encourage other women to take action. Women employed by Local Authorities, the NHS and private firms are often unable to benefit from bonuses and allowances paid to workers who are prepared to be on duty at night and through weekends, because they have childcare to consider. It is not just unsocial hours bonuses that women are unlawfully denied.
Bonuses are very common in Local Authorities who were given the power to introduce them in 1971. Nearly every local authority did and nearly every authority only applied them to jobs that were traditionally done by men. Many of these schemes have fallen by the wayside but the result is that jobs dominated by men pay more than those dominated by women. In many cases men get bonuses simply for turning up at work!
Thousands of women have already brought claims against their employers because they have been unlawfully refused the chance to earn a bonus but many many more have yet to take action. In Warwickshire - school cleaners, caretakers, schools meals staff and lunch time supervisors argued that like men employed as gardeners and road workers on the same grade they should get bonuses. The tribunal said that the women were entitled to the same bonus as the jobs carried out mainly by men and the failure to do so was unlawful.
Claims by women who did not get a bonus when male workers in other jobs did have also been brought to tribunals against St Helens and Staffordshire councils. Again the women worked as cleaners, catering staff and school meals staff.
In Cleveland hundreds of dinner ladies (who were mainly women) took action after they realised that maintenance staff (who were mainly men) got a bonus yet didn't seem to work any harder than the dinner ladies. The council settled the claim before the tribunal hearing at a cost of £4 million pounds and also agreed that in future dinner ladies would be entitled to a bonus.
If you feel you have been discriminated against, our solicitors can help gain your rights back. Visit our employment law section.