NHS staff can’t rely on Agenda for Change retrospectively in equal pay claims

Employees will not be able to rely solely on the banding of roles put forward by the National Health Service’s (NHS) job evaluation scheme Agenda for Change, in order to support any claim for equal pay that relates to the period prior to the scheme’s implementation, following a ruling by the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

In the case of Hovell v Ashford & St Peter’s Hospital NHS Trust, the EAT turned down an appeal by Hovell asking for the requirement for the appointment of an independent expert to look at the job roles being compared to be withdrawn. Hovell had argued that the banding of job roles under Agenda for Change, which came into effect in 2004, should determine the question of equal value for the period prior to this date since neither her job role nor that of her comparator had changed before and after the job evaluation scheme came into effect and that both had been placed in the same pay band afterwards.

However, the EAT made it clear that although Agenda for Change provides some evidence on the question of equal value, it does not determine it, leaving the onus on the claimant to prove equal value.

Rachael Heenan, head of the Equal Pay Unit and employment partner at Beachcroft, the solicitors representing the health trust, said: “This is good news for NHS Trusts as the decision confirms once again that Agenda for Change does not have retrospective effect.”

Hovell is now seeking permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.