The Home Office has been forced to award back pay to a former civil servant who took the department to court after it unexpectedly cut her base salary.
Angela Maull, a former higher executive officer in the Home Office, took the department to court after a contract change meant she missed out on pay rises and pension benefits.
She took up the post in December 2018 and was initially paid £33,032 – the salary agreed in the Home Office’s job offer.
But after four months, the department sent Maull a new contract of employment with a lower base salary of £29,040.
After cutting her base pay to the lower figure in June 2019, the Home Office added a “mark time” top-up of £3,992 to take the total to her original salary.
But Maull’s lawyers argued that the “mark time” arrangement – a mechanism used when an employee’s salary falls, and their employer agrees to top it up to the original amount for a fixed period – caused “detriment” because it meant she did not receive other pay rises, and the top up did not come with salary-related workplace benefits.
She did not receive the pay rise given to Home Office staff in late 2019 and 2020 because the mark time “errored” any pay increase, according to Phoenix Solicitors, which represented Maull at the tribunal.
She also lost out on a temporary 10% bump during a secondment, they said.
The Home Office said it had made a mistake in Maull’s original contract, which recorded her place of work as Croydon – rather than Liverpool, which was actually the case. Maull said she had been visiting the Croydon office for around three days a week, but stopped when she fell ill, with the department’s agreement.
The ex-official argued that the Home Office had deliberately matched her previous salary in the NHS when offering her the job, and that this had been supported by a business case.
She also said she and the department were bound by the original contract, which she had signed in good faith.
The Home Office argued that it had not breached Maull’s contract because the pay rises were at its discretion.
But it was forced to hand over the lost pay and pension contributions after the court found in favour of Maull.
The department – which did not take up Maull’s offer of a settlement – spent £50,000 on its defence of the claim, court documents showed.
Peter Harthan, who represented Maull, said the Home Office had “picked the wrong person to short-change”.
“The Home Office spent nearly £50,000 of taxpayer’s money on legal services only to get the wrong answer to a topic which is covered in the first lecture of a contract law course,” he said.
“Her victory in court shows that government departments must meet their contractual obligations to civil servants and cannot assume that employees will roll over or be pressured into accepting less favourable terms of payment to those which have been agreed,” he added.