The court rejected her claim against the Health and Safety Executive, stating that additional years of service allowed for greater experience which in turn led to improved work performance.
This justified the extra salary paid for length of service even though there was an in-built bias in favour of men who did not take time off to care for children.
Leena Linnainmaa, the president of the European Women Lawyers’ Association, suggested that the situation would only become fairer for women when men took more paternity leave, something most did not do even though they had the right to in most European countries.
“The fact that women take maternity leave is a great burden on their career,” she said.
“We strongly encourage men to take paternity leave and the countries that have no specific legislation on the right to paternity leave to amend their law.”
Emma Hawksworth, a partner in Russell Jones & Walker, which represented Ms Cadman, said: “Additional experience does not lead to better performance indefinitely or in every case. Employers will have to ensure their pay schemes reflect this. Where there is no good reason for using or continuing to use length of service criteria, it will be unlawful to do this.”
Sarah Harman, a leading family solicitor and founder of the pressure group, Families Action for Court Transparency and Openness, said: “To be penalised in terms of salary is a real pity. It seems to go against the run of really encouraging steps in the last 10 to 15 years, which have made women feel that they don’t have to put their children in nurseries and that they can regain the time lost. Length of service and experience are good things, but women who take time off can come back with renewed energy, new ideas, and a different set of skills