Avoca cafe found to have discriminated on basis of gender
Avoca failed to prove gender was not a factor behind wage disparity, ruling finds
Equality Commission chief executive Evelyn Collins commended the Avoca workers for their “courage” in bringing the case forward.
Paulina Paczkowska (33) and Agnieszka Golygowska (32) took the case against the Belfast outlet of the popular cafe and retail chain after their requests for pay increases to match that of a male co-worker doing the same job were rejected by Avoca.
Both women were employed as baristas when they lodged the requests in December 2014.
Ms Paczkowska was paid an hourly wage of £6.63 at the time and Ms Golygowska was paid £6.81 per hour. Radek Widoniak, a fellow male barista, was receiving £8.25 per hour.
In their submissions to an industrial tribunal last June, the women contended that by not paying them the same as their male colleague the company was in breach of the UK Equal Pay Act.
Ms Paczkowska contended that she was entitled to a wage increase backdated to May 2012 when she claimed to have begun working as a barista alongside Mr Widoniak, while Ms Golygowska sought an identical increase backdated to May 2013.
In a ruling published on Thursday, the tribunal determined that both women had been employed in the same role and carried out the same tasks as Mr Widoniak since May 2013, and said Avoca had failed to prove that gender discrimination had not been a factor behind the wage disparity.
Over the course of a four-day hearing the company argued that Mr Widoniak was paid more as he had more experience as a barista, had longer service with the company, and that wage increases earlier in his career were necessary to prevent him leaving the job for other employment.
These were rejected by the tribunal as reasonable grounds for providing different levels of pay, and it found Avoca “has not advanced any persuasive arguments as to why the discrepancy in payment was necessary from May 2013 onwards”.
It concluded that Ms Paczkowska and Ms Golygowska had “enjoyed less favourable terms than Mr Widoniak in relation to pay for doing like work”, and that the women were entitled to an equal level of pay from May 2013.
In a statement accompanying the decision, Northern Ireland Equality Commission chief executive Evelyn Collins commended the Avoca workers for their “courage” in bringing the case forward.
“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,” she said.
The commission said a total sum for money owed to the women is yet to be calculated, and the case may be subject to further tribunal hearings if a figure cannot be agreed between the parties involved.