Dozens of employment lawyers working for the Government Legal Department have accused it of pay discrimination and warned that unless their concerns are addressed they may take their case to the Employment Tribunal.
Following anger over salary revelations last year, more than 30 employment lawyers working for GLD have submitted a grievance to Susanna McGibbon, the Permanent Secretary of the Government Legal Department.
The lawyers are Grades 6 and 7, which designate "experienced officials with significant policy responsibilities".
A source within the Civil Service said the letter was "incendiary" and that "scores of lawyers are now all considering taking out their own grievance over pay", adding that it was "remarkable that the government has managed to piss off its own employment law function" so much "that it's going to end up in litigation".
In the letter, the lawyers accuse GLD of allowing "enormous" disparities in pay to develop between government lawyers who carry out similar work.
"For example, there is a white female grade 6 lawyer (with no declared disability) earning £86,000 per annum, whereas the vast majority of grade 6 lawyers, a large percentage from ethnic minority backgrounds, are paid in the region of £65,000", they state in the letter seen by RollOnFriday.
Freedom of Information requests submitted by GLD lawyers also revealed that their counterparts at HMRC, the CPS, the Pensions Regulator, the FCA, Ofgem and Ofcom "are paid significantly more than lawyers employed by GLD". GLD lawyers who didn't join it from other government departments are particularly prone to a pay gap, says the letter.
"The Grade 6 equivalent pay scale at the Pensions Regulator does not even overlap with the GLD pay scale: the bottom of their scale is above the top of ours", it states.
GLD bosses had attempted to justify paying some of its lawyers more than others on the basis that "they joined GLD on higher salaries from other Government Departments", and blamed the Cabinet Office for refusing to provide funds to lift its lawyers' pay scale, according to the grievance.
The signatories have given the GLD 21 days to respond, saying they anticipate that more of the service’s 1,500 lawyers will seek to join their group action if it proceeds to the Employment Tribunal.
A spokesperson for the Government Legal Department said, “GLD does not comment on grievances as we are bound by the requirement on all parties to ensure confidentiality in the process”.