Ratcliffe and Others v North Yorkshire County Council: HL 7 Jul 1995

Three school dinner ladies had been employed by the Council at National Rates of pay and conditions. Their work which was almost exclusively carried out by females had been rated as of equal value to that of men employed by the council at various establishments. Following compulsory tendering the council declared some of the catering assistants redundant and dismissed them and re-employed them through the direct service organization at rates of pay that in the majority of cases were below Joint Council Rates.
Held: The tribunal’s conclusions that the council had not shown that the variation was generally due to a material factor other than the difference of sex was upheld. Where jobs were rated as being of equal value, the fact of others paying less to women is not sufficient to justify treating them differently.
After referring to section 1(3) Lord Slynn said: ‘There has been much argument in this case as to the relationship between section 1 of the Act of 1970 and section 1 of the Act of 1975. The latter distinguishes between (a) a case where an employer on the ground of her sex treats a woman less favourably than he treats or would treat a man (section 1(1)(a)), and (b) a case where the employer applies to a woman a requirement or condition which he applies or would apply equally to a man but which is such that the proportion of women who can comply with it is considerably smaller than the proportion of men who can comply with it and which the employer cannot show to be justifiable irrespective of the sex of the person to whom it is applied and which is to the detriment of a woman because she cannot comply with it (section 1(1)(b)). The first (a) is commonly referred to as ‘direct’ discrimination, the latter ((b) as ‘indirect’ discrimination. It is submitted that this distinction must be introduced equally into the Act of 1970. For my part I do not accept that this is so. There is no provision in the Act of 1975 which expressly incorporates the distinction into the Act of 1970 even though Schedule I to the Act of 1975 incorporated a number of amendments into the Act of 1970 and even though Part II of that Schedule set out the Act of 1970 in full in its amended form.
In my opinion the Act of 1970 must be interpreted in its amended form without bringing in the distinction between so-called ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ discrimination. The relevant question under the Act of 1970 is whether equal treatment has been accorded to men and women employed on like work or for men and women employed on work rated as equivalent. Whether they are employed on work rated as equivalent depends on whether the woman’s job and the man’s job had been given an equal value in terms of the demand made on a worker under various headings on a study undertaken with a view to evaluating in those terms the jobs to be done by all or any of the employees in an undertaking (section 1 (5).)
In the present case it is plain that such evaluation was made and the women were found to be engaged on work rated as equivalent to work done by men. That is sufficient for the women to be entitled to a declaration by the industrial tribunal in their favour unless section 1 (3) of the Act as set out previously is satisfied.
This was the question for the industrial tribunal to consider. By a majority they were satisfied that the council had failed to show that the variation between the applicants’ contracts and those of their male comparators was due to a material factor which was not the difference of sex.’


Lord Slynn of Hadley


Times 07-Jul-1995, Independent 07-Jul-1995, [1995] ICR 833


Equal Pay Act 1970 1(3), Sex Discrimination Act 1975


England and Wales


At EATNorth Yorkshire County Council v Ratcliffe and others EAT 21-Jan-1993
School catering assistants claimed equal pay under the Act. Their work had been valued as equal to that of men, but following a contracting out procedure, they earned less than men.
Held: The Council had failed to show that the difference was . .
Appeal fromBritish Coal Corporation and Others, North Yorkshire County Council v Ratcliffe and Others CA 11-May-1994
School catering assistants did work which had been valued equally with that of men, but their jobs had been contracted out to direct service companies who paid them less.
Held: Market pressure which required the payment of lower wages to women . .

Cited by:

CitedSharp v Caledonia Group Services Ltd EAT 1-Nov-2005
EAT Equal Pay Act – Material factor defence – In an equal pay claim involving a presumption of direct discrimination the genuine material factor defence requires justification by objective criteria.
The . .
CitedArmstrong and others v Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Hospital Trust CA 21-Dec-2005
The claimants claimed equal pay, asserting use of particular comparators. The Trust said that there was a genuine material factor justifying the difference in pay.
Held: To constitute a single source for the purpose of article 141, it is not . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 28 April 2022; Ref: scu.85676