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I am currently an accountant and I am due to go on maternity leave in eight weeks. I have been with the company 15 years. I have just found out that my maternity cover’s (male) basic salary is £7.5k more a year than me. I was also just informed by my line manager that he is also receiving a £250 per month special payment as he is “stepping up” into my role. This puts him on over £10k more per year than me. After he has spent two months training with me, senior management are now aware that he does not have the experience or knowledge to actually cover my role so the company have now advertised another senior position internally to cover my maternity role. This will be replacing me with two people, both being on a higher salary and both have been employed with the company for over six years so it is not a temporary/agency contract. When in discussions with my line manager I said this was not fair and he said that my salary will be adjusted in April 2018 (when the company gives annual pay rises). This will make no difference to me as I will be on statutory maternity pay then, but it will make a difference when I return in September 2018. My questions is, have I got a case to start a grievance against the higher salary? And if I waited till April 2018 to see what was given as an increase will this be too late to put in a claim?
To answer your second question first, there are short time limits to bring claims in the Employment Tribunal. Equal Pay claims have six-month time limits and Sex Discrimination claims have three-month limits. The time would run from the last time you received the lower pay, i.e. your last pay linked to your salary. Statutory pay is at 90% of salary for the first six weeks so it is possible that you will find out what the April pay rise will be before the three months is up, but it may be cutting it fine.
Your employer certainly has some questions to answer. To defend an Equal Pay claim, they would have to show a “genuine material factor” other than gender to explain the pay differential between you and your “actual comparator”. Unfortunately, it is not possible to use a successor employee as an “actual comparator” so you would not be able to rely on your maternity cover for any claim arising out of what you are paid now, though if he continued to be paid more than you will be when you return in September 2018, you can rely on a predecessor as a comparator.
You could bring a Sex Discrimination claim asserting that you would have been paid more if you were male, relying on your maternity cover as evidence of what a man has been paid in your absence. This enables you to say that a less experienced man, who appears not to be capable of carrying out the job by himself, has been paid considerably more. Again, your employer might defend this on the basis that there is an explanation for the pay differential other than gender.
The first step is to ask your employer for an explanation for the pay differential. Once you have this, you should seek specialist advice before deciding whether or not to pursue a claim.