CPS entitled to cut pay of solicitor who moved north

CPS: Took four years to realise what had happened

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was entitled to cut the pay of a senior Crown prosecutor who worked from home and moved from Bedford to the north-east, an employment tribunal has ruled.

Employment Judge Langridge found nothing to support the solicitor’s view that she should be paid according to the CPS region for which she worked, the south-east, and not where she lived.

Ms McKenzie-Bayliss moved in January 2017 for family reasons to the north-east, where CPS pay was set at the national rate, but was assigned to a team working for the understaffed CPS South East, where she was paid according to the higher London rate, which covered Bedford.

The judge said it was “very unfortunate” that it took the CPS more than four years to realise that it had overpaid her by over £16,800.

She was “understandably shocked and upset” by being told in August 2017 that she had been overpaid by “such a considerable amount of money and over a lengthy period of time” and her salary would be based at the national rate from September 2021.

The judge said no deductions from the solicitor’s salary had been made to take into account the overpayments, because she was not in agreement. She responded by launching a claim for unlawful deductions from wages.

However, Judge Langridge said the CPS had given her “no reassurances” that her pay would remain the same after the move.

Nor did it matter whether the actual cost of living for Ms McKenzie-Bayliss was the same in the north-east as in Bedford, as she argued. The judge said the purpose of the higher rate was to recognise that the cost of living was generally higher in and around London.

“Whether that is a perceived or an actual higher cost is not the point. The claimant may well have experienced little or no change to her living costs in the north-east, but contractually it is important to recognise the parties’ express or implied intentions in entering into such an agreement.”

The tribunal heard that Ms McKenzie-Bayliss joined the CPS in 1991, working for its London teams from 2008 and from end of 2012 from her home for CPS South-East.

She argued that the location of her “permanent workplace” was not the employee’s home but the CPS region for which she worked.

Judge Langridge said that under agreements made with the CPS, Ms McKenzie-Bayliss was told “explicitly” that when working from home that her home address would become her “permanent work location resulting in a potential change to your pay location”.

She said that moving the solicitor to the national pay rate “reflected both the express terms agreed by the parties and was in keeping with the common sense argument” put forward by counsel for the CPS.

“Nothing in the wording of the documents supported the claimant’s view that the pay location related to the region for whom the work was done, as distinct from the ‘place at which’ the work was physically carried out.”

The judge agreed with the CPS that Ms McKenzie-Bayliss had been overpaid by the difference between the London rate and the lower national rate.

Dismissing the claim for unlawful deductions from wages, he added that it was “not appropriate” for him to deal with the detail of the overpayment or its recoupment, which should be “left to the parties to aim to resolve between themselves.”

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