Black civil servant given £180,000 because of positive discrimination

Senior civil servant was awarded £180,000 top-of-the-range pay packet – £52,000 more than her white male co-worker – because she benefited from positive discrimination as a black woman, tribunal finds

  • Civil servant Matthew Parr had sued Government for sex and race discrimination
  • Black colleague Wendy Williams was found to be paid £52,000 more than him
  • Both are one of five HM Inspectors of Constabulary who act as police watchdogs
  • Tribunal found Mr Parr was not discriminated against as he was on new pay scale
  • But also ruled that Mrs Williams may have benefitted from positive discrimination because her ethnicity and gender gave her ‘leverage’

HM Inspector of Police Wendy Williams may have been awarded a top pay packet as a result of positive discrimination, an employment tribunal has concluded

A senior civil servant may have been awarded a top pay packet because she is a black woman, an employment tribunal has concluded.

HM Inspector of Police Wendy Williams was used as a comparator to fellow HMI Matthew Parr, who was paid £52,000 less to do the same job.

He brought an employment tribunal case against the Home Office, claiming he had been discriminated against on the grounds of race and sex because he is a white man.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, backed by Mrs Williams, attempted to get salary calculations due to be disclosed by the tribunal made secret but their case was thrown out.

The Central London tribunal court has now ruled that Mr Parr was not discriminated against because he was the first of a new pay scale and therefore could not use Mrs Williams as a comparator.

However they concluded that the department had feared possible accusations around her salary and she had benefitted from positive discrimination.

Matthew Parr, one of the five HM Inspectors of Constabulary (HMIs) who oversee the UK’s police forces, claimed ‘ham-fisted’ attempts to lower hefty pay packets left him discriminated against because he is a white man.

The former Royal Navy officer and Rear Admiral took the £133,983 job in 2016 when Theresa May was Home Secretary.

He was given a further £7,904 London living allowance, but was still paid far less than Ms Williams, appointed 15 months earlier on a salary of more than £185,000 despite her pay bracket then being £165,000 to £185,000.

A Central London tribunal court ruled that Matthew Parr was not discriminated against because he was the first of a new pay scale and therefore could not use Mrs Williams as a comparator. However it was added that Mrs Williams benefitted from being a black woman that gave her a negotiating leverage in pay discussions

Employment Judge Richard Nicolle said: ‘We find that the fact of Ms Williams being a black woman, and the Respondent’s perception of the litigation and reputational risk she therefore potentially posed, to be the reason for this sudden and significant increase.

‘We do not consider it possible to apportion the extent to which the increase in Ms Williams’ pay was attributable to concerns regarding her sex or race as distinct protected characteristics but rather that her being a black woman gave her a negotiating leverage to increase her pay and as a result she benefited from because what arguably constituted positive discrimination in her favour.

‘We find that the Respondent viewed the Claimant as a white male to pose little legal and reputational risk should he seek to challenge his renumeration on equality/discrimination grounds.

‘We therefore find that the increase in Ms Williams’ salary from £165,000 to £185,791 was influenced by the Respondent’s concern that the initially proposed differential between her pay and that of the white incumbents could give rise to legal and reputational risks to the Home Office.

‘The differential was not due to the difference of sex but rather due to the positive discrimination from which Ms Williams benefitted. ‘

The Employment Judge continued: ‘The decision to increase Ms Williams’ pay may have constituted positive discrimination in her favour, at least in part is attributable to the Respondent’s perception that she as a black woman posed a greater litigation and reputational risk than the Claimant did at the time of his appointment.

‘It did not automatically constitute less favourable treatment of the Claimant on account of his race.’

At the time of her appointment, the Treasury was trying to cut costs and discussed paying her a similar salary to that Mr Parr was later to receive but decided there was a ‘risk of a legal challenge on the grounds of discrimination’ if they did that.

Mr Parr told an employment tribunal that she got her pay because the Home Office were concerned about ‘reputational damage’ and assumed he would accept the pay and not bring a claim.

The Employment Judge continued: ‘The decision to increase Ms Williams’ pay may have constituted positive discrimination in her favour, at least in part is attributable to the Respondent’s perception that she as a black woman posed a greater litigation and reputational risk than the Claimant did at the time of his appointment’. Pictured: Victory House, central London’s tribunal court

He is responsible for forces in London, Bedfordshire, Northern Ireland, the National Crime Agency, the Counter Terrorism Policing Network, national forces such as British Transport Police and forces in Overseas Territories.

He also looks after the London Fire Brigade and five other services.

Mrs Williams oversees forces in Wales and the west of England.

Mr Parr told the tribunal: ‘This is, for me, principally a question of fairness.

‘It is fundamentally unfair to pay people wildly different amounts for doing what is, by any measure, identical work.’

Employment Judge Richard Nicolle said: ‘We consider that cost considerations were a significant factor to the Respondent in assessing and setting the new salary scales.

‘The evidence points to significant pressure from the Treasury to reduce HMI pay because of austerity but also a perception that their pay was ‘excessive’ compared to other comparable public sector positions.

‘At the time of his appointment, we find that an equivalent black man would have been offered, and paid, the same remuneration as the Claimant.

‘Given that the benchmarking exercise had been undertaken, and the new salary scales set after Ms Williams’ appointment the Respondent has reason to pay a different salary to the Claimant.

‘Ms Williams is not therefore a correct comparator. We therefore reject the claims for direct race discrimination.’

The Home Office has been approached for comment. 

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