A union is seeking permission to take The Royal Parks charity to the High Court for a judicial review of an employment contract that the union claims discriminates against black African cleaners.
The charity was set up by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to administer and maintain the eight royal parks in London, including Hyde Park, St James's Park and Kensington Gardens.
The case will see a black African cleaner argue that the charity’s decision to enter into a contract with her employer, a private cleaning contractor, on the basis that she would receive inferior terms and conditions of employment to in-house staff, was unlawful.
The legal claim is being supported by the union United Voices of the World.
It will also be argued that the contract failed to pay due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity.
In a statement, the union said that slightly more than 87 per cent of in-house staff at the charity were white, but the 90 per cent of outsourced cleaning staff who were black and minority ethnic did not receive full pay sick pay, received lower levels of pay and three times less maternity pay.
The union said the charity also had a duty to eliminate discrimination and to advance equality of opportunity.
UVW said the claim would contend that The Royal Parks had failed to give “due regard to the discriminatory effect of operating a double standard on terms and conditions between directly employed and outsourced staff”.
Richard O’Keeffe, head of legal services at UVW, said: “It is not uncommon for public sector bodies to be challenged by way of judicial review when they make unlawful decisions in respect of workers’ terms and conditions.
“The situation should be no different when they make unlawful decisions affecting the livelihoods of their outsourced workforces, cleaners, security guards and so on.
“No regard to equalities implications of public body decision-making cannot be ‘due regard’.”
The outsourced worker bringing the claim is being represented by the Public Interest Law Centre.
Saskia O’Hara, paralegal at PILC, said: “The Royal Parks charity cannot go unchallenged when it shirks its responsibilities to eliminate discrimination while exercising its public function.”
A spokesperson for The Royal Parks said: “We are aware that, with the assistance of a trade union, UVW, a cleaner employed by one of our contractors has brought a legal claim against The Royal Parks.
“Cleaning services, and many other services integral to maintaining the parks, have been contracted out for many years and the terms and conditions of staff employed by our contractors are a matter for their employers, not The Royal Parks”.