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Court Of Appeal Backs Cumbrian Nurses’ Equal Pay Fight, UK

In a ground breaking equal pay case; North Cumbria Acute Hospitals NHS Trust vs Potter & Ors, the Court of Appeal has backed UNISON’s claim that the NHS pay and grading review – Agenda for Change – should not be classed as a break in employment. The ruling paves the way for thousands of women across the country, who have existing equal pay claims lodged with NHS Trusts and councils, to proceed with their cases.

The women, mainly working as nurses, were supported by UNISON against a challenge to their equal pay litigation, where they can claim for up to 6 years of unfair back pay. Staff in continuous employment can put in a claim at any time, but one transferred, by law people have only six months to lodge a claim.

The employers tried to argue that the introduction of Agenda for Change meant the women had started a new contract of employment, and therefore had only six months to lodge claims. This would have timed many women out of taking their case for pay discrimination.

UNISON argued that it would be unfair for a system that was meant to bring in equal pay, to penalize women against challenging past pay discrimination, by giving them a limited window to lodge a claim.

The Court of Appeal upheld UNISON’s claim that new terms and conditions under Agenda for Change did not constitute a break in employment, and the women involved can now proceed with their cases.

The decision will affect thousands of women across the country that have lodged equal pay claims, as many NHS Trusts and councils have been using a similar defense to time women out of making a claim for wage discrimination.

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:

“North Cumbria Acute Hospitals NHS Trust unfairly tried to twist the introduction of a fairer pay structure into a reason why its women workers could not take an equal pay case against past discrimination.

“These nurses, like many women across the country, have already been forced to jump through a number of legal hurdles to try to get equality in their pay. This is a disgrace when you consider that equal pay has been the law of the land in the UK for more than 40 years.

“NHS and local authority employers across the country need to face up to their responsibilities to right the wrongs, and compensate women that have not been paid equally.

“This ruling paves the way for thousands of women across the country, who have already lodged claims for equal pay, to proceed with their cases.”


* Agenda for Change was designed to bring and fair and equal pay into the NHS. It was the biggest shake up in pay since the NHS was founded more than 60 years ago.

The new pay and grading package covered more than 1 million NHS workers, including people working on contracts for the NHS, to prevent a two-tier workforce.



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