Work: `After more than a decade of fighting for equality, my friends are still wanting to know when the drinks will be on me'

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The Independent Online
Pam Enderby became aware of the injustice of her position 11 years ago. After huge legal fees expended by the Equal Opportunities Commission and her union to win her equal pay - and a similar amount expended by the National Health Service to deny her extra money - she is still waiting for compensation.

Last summer it was finally agreed that as a speech therapist in the health service her work was of equal value to that undertaken by pharmacists and psychologists.

"After more than a decade, my friends are still waiting to know when the drinks will be on me," she said.

Ms Enderby, 47, was paid considerably less than her male colleagues. As head of her hospital department, she found she was under very similar pressures to them. In fact she had a larger staff and a wider area of research to cover than her opposite number in the psychology department.

Part of her difficulty has been that she was invoking law which means women who perform work of "equal value" to men should be paid the same. This law is something of a minefield. It is easier - but not without difficulty - to win equal pay for the same job.

The concept of equal value is fraught with difficulty and the NHS decided to exploit the problems to the full. However, 1,200 other cases hinge on the Enderby judgment and it could cost the health service pounds 30m in back pay and legal costs. The EOC and the MSF union have been landed with a legal bill in excess of pounds 100,000.

Ms Enderby's case, according to the commission, is a shining example of the Byzantine nature of present legislation and the urgent need to reform it. She has since left the health service to become professor of community rehabilitation at Sheffield University. "The problem with a lot of female professions is that there is a `ceiling' that is not the case in male dominated professions. Men were always expected to have a career."

Her new job uses her expertise in speech therapy: but many of her colleagues have to leave the specialism to go into hospital management. She believes there is a potential for change under the present government. "It was obvious that under the previous administration there was an absence of political will. Every obstacle was put in one's way."

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