Should my wife be paid more after secondment to a higher paid desk-based team?

My wife put her back out and was seconded to a desk-based team a few years ago. She is still in this team on her previous pay level, although she is doing a more senior role. She was told that a position related to her current role would come up, but her employer has started offering voluntary redundancy packages to staff and has made it known that jobs won’t be backfilled. That suggests she will never have an official role. Is it legal that she has been doing this role for several years, but on a reduced wage, with any redundancy package – should she opt to take it – based on that wage.

Pay Day

 

When an employee is placed into an alternative role as a means to support their rehabilitation following an injury or illness, their employer is not legally obliged to increase their pay at that point. The obligation to make “reasonable adjustments” does not always extend to pay and can be limited to the scope of the work which the employee is able to undertake whilst they recover, hopefully to a point where they are able to resume their contracted post. It is usually the case that a placement into an alternative role is therefore only temporary in nature and once the employee is well enough to return to their substantive post they will do so accordingly.

In your wife’s case it is unclear as to why she has remained in the team she is in for the last few years, but this is a relevant point to the question you raise. If your wife remained in the team because her health is precluding her from returning to her engineering role then there would be little if no, obligation for her employer to have increased her pay commensurate to others in the team. If, however, your wife has permanently moved into the team then a consideration around pay ought to have been undertaken at that point to ensure that her level of pay was not discriminatory in any way. You should note that the employer would only have been obliged to consider the question of pay. There would have been no obligation to increase it if they were able to objectively justify why an increase was not appropriate, for example, due to her being less experienced than her colleagues.

If there is an argument to say that your wife’s pay should have been increased at some point then redundancy pay could be argued as being payable at this enhanced rate. If, however, there is not then it would be acceptable to base her redundancy pay on her contractual wage.

*Charlotte Geesin is Legal Director of Howarths, a Yorkshire based, award-winning Employment Law, HR, Business Immigration and Health & Safety provider for SMEs across the UK.



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