UNISON wins legal pay out for 5,000 low-paid women in schools and nurseries in Greenwich

Five thousand part-time cleaners, teaching assistants, catering, administrative, school meal workers and other staff working for Greenwich Council are to receive pay outs that could amount to hundreds of pounds, following a five year legal battle over holiday pay, says UNISON today (Wednesday).

UNISON took the case on behalf of the Royal Boroughs employees the overwhelming majority of whom are women over the councils failure to calculate their annual leave properly. As a result some of the staff had been losing up to five days pay a year.

Using European law, UNISON brought employment tribunal claims on behalf of 476 of the term-time only staff, arguing that they had been unlawfully treated less favourably than colleagues owing to their part-time status.

The settlement,worth approximately 4m, was approved at a full council meeting this evening. Councillors agreed to revise the formula used to calculate the holiday allowance and pay the correct rate, backdated to 1 January 2013.

The problem was first identified in 2012, when Julie, a school cleaner who has lived and worked in the borough all her life, noticed shed lost a significant amount of pay when her contract changed from a full year to a term-time only one.

Commenting on the case, UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: This is a victory for all low-paid women working in the public sector. What started out as just one case could soon be having an impact far beyond South East London.

Laws that began life in Europe have enabled UNISON to restore justice and ensure that all part-time workers in the Royal Borough of Greenwich are paid the correct holiday pay for the jobs they do.

Other employers may have made similar errors with their holiday calculations. If they have, well be on to them to make sure all term-time staff are paid what theyre due.

While the case brought by UNISON only involved 476 workers, the corrected formula and back pay will apply to all 5,000 term-time only staff employed by the council. UNISON understands the settlement will be paid before the end of the year.

Notes to editors:
– The UNISON lawyers who led on the case are available for interviews.
– UNISON member and school cleaner Julie Steadman who first uncovered the issue with holiday pay is also available for interviews.
– Five men are part of the 476 claims lodged by UNISON. According to Greenwich Council 94% of term-time workers in the borough are female, and they will all benefit from the settlement.
The part-time workers involved in this case are employed on term-time only contracts in schools and nurseries across Greenwich. They mainly work as teaching assistants, and in early years, catering, as family support advisors, family liaison officers, school meal supervisors, home school liaison, data administration, school admission officers and as learning mentors.
– Details of the decision agreed at a cabinet meeting held on Wednesday 17 October are on the council’s website