Conclusion of gender pay gap tribunal

The Founder has been following the gender pay gap case in the Employment Tribunal that has been taking place between Professor Schafer and Royal Holloway. Professor Elizabeth Schafer claims that she has been consistently underpaid in comparison to her male colleagues. The case, which began on 3rd November, has finally reached its conclusion.

Principal Professor Layzell has issued the following message to the professoriate, stating that: “Both the College and Professor Schafer are delighted to announce that it has been possible to resolve this matter amicably. All ongoing litigation has been brought to an end.” He emphasised that the college have introduced the new professorial pay banding system in order to address: “any perceived or actual flaws in its policies and procedures in respect of pay and otherwise”. He concluded this message to his colleagues by reiterating that Professor Schafer was a highly valued member of the academic staff and that both sides: “look forward to putting this dispute behind us and working very positively together in the future.”

The Founder have had access to the Employment Tribunal final judgement document and can provide further information on the case as a whole. Professor Schafer, as part of her defence, was required to cite four male comparators. These are male colleagues who she believed provided like work as Professors, but were more highly rewarded for it on account of gender. Though the Employment Tribunal reserved judgment at this point, they did unanimously agree that: “The Claimant [Professor Schafer] is employed on like work with each of the named comparators.” However, in order for a final judgement to be reached then it must be proved that there is a genuine material factor in regard to gender.

The case was rendered more complex by the discussion of retention payments. These are payments made by the College to a Professor in order to retain them at Royal Holloway rather than taking up a new post at another university. The Tribunal examined a number of examples of retention payments made by Royal Holloway to certain Professors. They concluded that though some of these were proportionate to the situation, others were not. The highly subjective manner of this system discussed only increased the complexity of the case in regards to the discussion of the gender pay gap.

The Employment Tribunal concluded that in order to reach a final judgement the court would have to re-list for another day in order to provide more oral submissions. This conclusion was reached considering the “importance of this case” combined with the “range of issues” and “number of possible variable outcomes”. The court defined a specific question that should be posed: “by what proportion … should the Tribunal conclude that any or each of the three retention payments … has been justified such as to make good the genuine material factor defence?”

The message sent by the Principal indicates that the case was not re-opened and the Employment Tribunal were obliged to reserve their judgment. The University College Union, who defended Professor Schafer, are yet to release a press statement on this matter. The message sent by the Principal indicates that Royal Holloway will not contest the Employment Tribunal’s reserved judgment. Professor Schafer has spoken to The Founder and comments: “I am extremely pleased that the Reading Employment Tribunal established a legal precedent in accepting the principle that male and female professors perform ‘like work”. It is yet to be seen whether this will inspire other female professors to pursue this matter in court.

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