European Court of Justice rules on Cadman case


European Court of Justice rules on Cadman case

The European Court of Justice has ruled on the long-running equal pay case known as the Cadman case. It makes it clear that employers are open to challenge by women if they can provide evidence that longer service does not actually lead to better performance.

This case started five years ago with a claim by Bernadette Cadman against the Health and Safety Executive challenging its pay system, which automatically rewarded length of service with higher pay. The case questioned whether the difference could be “objectively justified”, for example, had longer service resulted in skills necessary to do the job at a higher level? The case has since travelled up the court system. 


Commenting on the decision, Jenny Watson, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said:

"Contrary to media speculation, this decision puts it beyond question that employers can be challenged by women who can provide evidence that casts serious doubt that longer service does actually lead to better performance. Evidence shows that women tend to accrue shorter length of service because they've taken career breaks to look after children or are relatively new entrants into traditionally male dominated professions. So even where they are working at the same level or making the same contribution as their male colleagues, they are more likely to be clustered at the lower end of the pay scale.

Employers should therefore err on the side of caution and ensure that length of service is only used in pay where it can legitimately be justified.”

The Government is currently reviewing equalities law. We would like to see them use this opportunity to make the situation clearer for both employers and individuals by requiring all employers to undertake a simple, straightforward, preventative check of their pay  -- so that they can put any problems right before both parties end up in expensive and costly Employment Tribunal proceedings."

Want to know more?

You can read lots more about the Cadman decision at the Equal Opportunities Commission web site in its news and media section at