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Tribunal awards 1.4 million for sex discrimination

11 January 2002 - Share analyst Julie Bower was awarded 1.4 million compensation for sex discrimination after a tribunal found that she had been forced out of her job at Schroder Securities. The case was supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). The remedy hearing took place on 7-10 January 2002 with Julie Bower being represented by Nicola Dandridge (Thompson's solicitors).

Julie Mellor, Chair of the EOC, commented:

"For too long, city firms have accepted a culture of secret pay deals for their staff. This perpetuates discrimination against anyone who is deemed not to 'fit in', regardless of their capability. This record payout sends a strong message to employers that they must have a fair and transparent pay and bonus system. It also reflects the seriousness of the discrimination that Julie faced during her employment with Schroders and the impact on her career.

"This case highlights the need for all firms to take a good, hard look at their pay system to check they are rewarding all staff fairly. If employers don't act soon, a legal requirement to carry out pay reviews will be the only way forward."

Background article

10 April 2001 - An Employment Tribunal found that Julie Bower, City share analyst, was forced to resign by former employer, Schroder Securities, as a result of sex discrimination. The Employment Tribunal found that the amount of Ms Bower's bonus for 1998 was a figure that had been 'picked from the air' as part of her manager's deliberate plan to drive her out.

The Tribunal agreed with the contention that Ms Bower's bonus for 1998, (25,000, later increased to 50,000), did not reflect the market rate for an analyst, did not reflect a genuine valuation of her performance and that her work was undervalued because she was a woman.

Jenny Watson, Deputy Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) said: "This case raises important issues for all employers. The tribunal found that Schroders had no transparency in their pay system and that employees were forbidden to discuss pay and bonuses. Such a culture makes it all too easy for discrimination to occur, which is why the EOC's Equal Pay Task Force has called for legislation requiring employers to review pay systems to ensure they are not biased. Until reviews are carried out on a routine basis no employer can be confident that they pay fairly.

"I hope employers will take notice of the lessons to be learned from this case. Equal opportunities are not an optional extra and there is no case, as is sometimes claimed, for the City to 'do things differently'. Employers in the City are bound by the same laws as everyone else.

"Many other companies will identify with the broader issues highlighted by the tribunal, such as the low proportion of women in senior roles at Schroders, and their complete absence among the higher levels of director. Recruitment methods that are likely to replicate existing male hierarchies simply aren't sustainable for companies looking to recruit from the broadest pool of potential employees."

The Tribunal concurred that Ms Bower had received an unfair appraisal in early 1999, and that her boss told her that a senior corporate financier 'wanted her head on a plate' in order to deliberately unsettle her, instead of trying to resolve the problem.

Julie Bower said: "I'm pleased that the Tribunal has concluded that the level of my bonus for 1998 and the fact that I was forced to leave my job were a result of sex discrimination. The way in which Schroders dealt with my complaints about the way I was being treated was completely unacceptable and I hope that no-one else ever has to go through the same sort of thing again."

The tribunal also found:

" Of the bonus setting process: 'it was hard to conceive a process more lacking in transparency'.

" In her appraisal Ms Bower was told she had the lowest score of any team leader. That was untrue; overall she ranked 37th out of 68.

" Employees engaged in recruitment and appraisal had no training in equal opportunities (other than those in the Personnel Department).

" Recruitment above graduate level was done with no regard for equality of opportunity in the sense that it is advocated by the EOC.

" Schroders did not monitor or observe either its recruitment or its pay levels to establish whether they were discriminatory.

" There was a laddish or sexist air about some of the corporate entertaining in which the Respondent engaged in that it involved taking clients to places where there were scantily-dressed women.

" The proportion of women employed in client-facing roles while Ms Bower was at Schroders was around 15% (not out of line with what competitors achieved).

" When Ms Bower left Schroders 100% of men (27 out of 27) at team leader or senior analyst level were directors, compared to 71% of women (five out of seven)."

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