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17 February 2017

Avoca apologises for unequal pay

Two women working in a Belfast café have won an equal pay claim against their employer, Avoca Handweavers (NI) Ltd with the support of the Equality Commission.
Paulina Paczkowska and Agnieszka Anna Golygowska both worked as floor staff/baristas in the Avoca Café. By 2015, Paulina was earning £6.79 per hour and Agnieszka £6.98 per hour, while their male colleague was earning £8.46.
Both women tried to resolve the matter without going to court by taking out a grievance against the company, but their grievances were dismissed; they lodged claims with the Tribunal and their trade union referred them to the Northern Ireland Equality Commission for help.
Avoca conceded that it did not have a structured pay scheme within the business. The firm also admitted that the three employees were all doing like work and accepted that there was a disparity in pay between the man and the women but claimed that material factors other than the sex of the staff, including the fact that the comparator had asked for more money,  were the reason for the disparity.
The Tribunal ruled that the factors cited by Avoca could not explain the difference in the pay rates and awarded the women equal pay to that paid to their male colleague from May 2013.
Dr Evelyn Collins, Chief Executive of the Equality Commission, said the case highlighted the clear legal protection afforded by the law:
“The law governing equal pay can seem complex, but its essence is very simple – men and women doing equal work for the same employer should get the same reward for it."
“The women concerned will benefit from the courage they have shown in challenging their treatment in this case. The company too, and all employers, can learn from this decision and others like it.”
In an unusually frank statement issued after the Tribunal had found against them Avoca said:
Avoca is committed to fair and equal pay practices and to equal opportunities for all our employees. We believed we were operating in a fair and proper way but we understand and accept the findings of the Tribunal. We will take steps to rectify Paulina and Agnieszka’s pay as quickly as possible and we apologise to them that we did not get it right in this instance”.
You can read the full decision here.

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