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UK ISP TalkTalk Win Unequal Pay Dispute Started by Ex-Worker

Thursday, April 9th, 2020 (5:50 pm) - Score 3,600

Broadband ISP TalkTalk has won a legal case that was started by one of its former Programme Director’s, Rebecca Burke, who had crowd-funded an equal pay dispute against the provider after she allegedly claimed to have been paid far less than male colleges. But a tribunal found no evidence of discrimination or unfair dismissal.

Rebecca, who was originally said to have been part of the team that helped the ISP to recover from a devastating cyber-attack in 2015, had been fighting a claim of pay related gender discrimination and unfair dismissal. However the London Central Employment Tribunal dismissed both claims, stating that the roles of the claimant and the male comparators could not be considered as “like” or “equal” work.

The judgement also found that the claimant had provided “misleading evidence” in relation to her role – in particular with regard to cyber security – confirming that she was “not involved” or responsible in the way she had claimed.

First, the claimant was not involved in the initial management of security after the cyber-attack. Second, while she identifies… the relevant functions, the claimant accepted in cross-examination that it was not her responsibility to secure the systems, albeit she had some limited input,” said the judgement.

A TalkTalk Spokesperson said:

“We are very pleased the Tribunal found no evidence of gender discrimination at TalkTalk and dismissed the claim of unfair dismissal. We are fully committed to treating all our employees fairly and there is no disparity in pay between genders.”

Summary of the Tribunal Findings

Equal Pay

1. The Claimant’s work was found to be completely different to her comparators with ‘clear water’ between what they did as described in paragraph 7.57 of the judgement:

“When we stand back and consider all of these factors, we are satisfied that there is clear water between the claimant’s role and the roles of her comparators. There are key differences in terms of the overall budget, accountability, and importance to the business. It cannot in our view be argued that those difference are anything other than of practical importance in relation to the terms and conditions of employment. The key difference, which revolved around the importance of the areas of responsibility to the business, is fundamental.”

2. The Judge further clarifies that the frequency of the differences in work between the Claimant and the comparators was constant and that the nature of it is fundamental (paragraph 7.58)

“We have considered both the frequency with which the differences occurred in practice, and the nature and extent of the differences. As frequency, the differences were constant. The nature is fundamental. The extent is significant.”

Unfair Dismissal

1. The procedure followed for the redundancy was held to be sound and the Judge commented that there was ‘overwhelming evidence’ that her consultation and appeal were carried out with an open mind and the points she raised were considered (paragraph 7.96):

“The Claimant had ample opportunity to comment on the selection process and assessment. There was an informal meeting. There were two consultation meetings. She put in written submissions. There was an appeal process concerning the redundancy itself. She had ample opportunity to make representations. She made detailed representations concerning all relevant matters. She challenged the pool. The prospect of other employment was raised. Her complaints were responded to in writing and the appeal points were fully investigated and rejected for rational reasons. The outcome was, no doubt, disappointing. However, the respondent is not obliged to accept the claimant’s arguments. It is obliged to consider them with an open mind, and overwhelming evidence is that it did.”

2. The Judge confirms that the reason for dismissal was due to a genuine redundancy (paragraph 7.106)

“We have found there was a redundancy situation and that redundancy was the sole or principle reason for the claimant’s dismissal. As regards the fairness of the procedure adopted, to include the consultation, we find that the procedure adopted by the respondent was one which was open to a reasonable employer. Dismissal was within the band of reasonable responses open to a reasonable employer. It follows that we reject the allegation that the dismissal was unfair.”

End.

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