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Pay Disparities Are Not Always Discriminatory

Statistical disparities in pay are not always a sign of discrimination. In one important case which proved that point, a Muslim prison chaplain who pointed out that he and his co-religionist colleagues were on average paid less than their Church of England counterparts failed to establish that he had been treated unequally.

In seeking compensation from the Home Office, the cleric’s lawyers argued that religious and race discrimination could be inferred from the difference in pay and the fact that Anglican chaplains are predominantly white. They received an average basic salary of £33,811, whereas their Muslim colleagues were paid an average of £31,847. Those arguments, however, fell on fallow ground before an Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal.


In dismissing the cleric’s challenge to the latter decision, the Court of Appeal found that the pay differential was a product, not of discrimination, but of the complex system of pay scales operated by HM Prison Service. Pay rises largely depended upon length of service and the statistical difference was due to the fact that Muslim prison chaplains were not appointed to full time posts until 2002.