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Maternity leave and equal pay: Male comparator not required in maternity pay claim

Key points

In Alabaster v Barclays Bank plc, the Court of Appeal holds:

  • The answer to the problem of how to enable an employee effectively to enforce her right to claim arrears of maternity pay (owed to her as a result of a failure to take into account a pay rise awarded before her maternity leave started, but after the reference period for calculating her maternity pay had ended) lay in removing the requirement in s.1(1) of the Equal Pay Act 1970 for her to point to a male comparator.
  • The employee's right to such a claim had been confirmed by a judgment of the ECJ, and an unlawful deductions from wages claim under the Employment Rights Act 1996 would be an inadequate means for her to seek a remedy, since if that were the only route available the employee would be left with a remedy not complying with the EC principles of equality, equivalence and effectiveness; disapplying the ERA limitation period alone (with which the employee had not complied) would not enable her to claim interest or receive support from the Equal Opportunities Commission in bringing her claim.