O’Brien v Sim-Chem Ltd: HL 2 Jan 1980

The Respondent had carried out a job evaluation exercise in co-operation with the trade unions. The plaintiff and comparators had been rated as equivalent in the course of this exercise but the employer had failed to implement the scheme because of Government pay policy. The House was asked whether the claimant could regard herself for the purposes of the Act as rated as equivalent with her comparator when the scheme had not been implemented.
Held: She could. once the job evaluation study had been agreed so that it was possible to use it as a basis for comparing jobs, then it could be relied upon even although it had not in fact been implemented. A job evaluation study may not be enforced until it has been completed: ‘It is not the stage of implementing the study by using it as the basis of the payment of remuneration which makes the study complete: it is the stage at which it is accepted as a study. It is perfectly possible to accept the validity of a study at a stage substantially before it is implemented.’
Lord Russell stated: ‘In summary, therefore, I am of the opinion that the words in dispute cannot have the result extended for by the employers. We are offered a number of dictionary substitutes for ‘determine’ none of which appeal to me. The best that I can do is to take the phrase as an indication that the very outcome of the equivalent job rating is to show the term to be less favourable. The next best I can do is to echo the words of Lord Bramwell in Bank of England v Vagliano Bros [1981] AC 107 at 139: ‘This beats me’, and jettison the words in dispute as making no contribution to the manifest intention of Parliament.’

Lord Russell of Killowen
[1980] 3 All ER 132, [1980] 1 WLR 1011, [1980] ICR 573, [1980] IRLR 373
England and Wales
Appeal fromO’Brien v Sim-Chem Ltd CA 1980
. .
CitedBank of England v Vagliano Brothers HL 5-Mar-1891
The court considered the interpretation of the 1882 Act, which was said to be a codifying Act.
Held: An Act is to be ascertained in the first instance from the natural meaning of its language and is not to be qualified by considerations . .

Cited by:
CitedPickstone v Freemans Plc HL 30-Jun-1988
The claimant sought equal pay with other, male, warehouse operatives who were doing work of equal value but for more money. The Court of Appeal had held that since other men were also employed on the same terms both as to pay and work, her claim . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Employment, Discrimination

Updated: 04 December 2021; Ref: scu.200629