Macarthys Ltd v Smith

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Macarthys Ltd v Smith
Court European Court of Justice
Citation(s) [1980] Case 129/79, [1980] ECR 1275
Case history
Prior action(s) [1979] 3 All ER 325
Subsequent action(s) [1980] EWCA Civ 7, [1981] QB 180
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Lord Denning MR
EU supremacy, sex discrimination

Macarthys Ltd v Smith (1980) Case 129/79 is an EU law, UK constitutional law and UK labour law case, concerning the construction of a sex discrimination statute, and its compatibility with European treaties, now in the European Union.


Ms Wendy Smith worked for Macarthys Ltd in their factory. She was paid £50 a week, but a man who had previously worked in the same job for the company had been paid £60 a week. Ms Smith claimed this was unlawful according either to the Equal Pay Act 1970, or the Treaty of the European Community article 119. The company argued she had no claim because the UK's Equal Pay Act 1970 did not allow comparisons with former colleagues. Ms Smith argued that, if this was true under UK law, then European Community law did allow such a comparison, and it would override the UK statute.


Court of Appeal[edit]

A majority held that Ms Smith had no claim because the EC treaties could not be used as an aid to interpreting UK law.[1] Lord Denning MR dissented, and said that it could. He went on as follows.[2]

A reference was then made to the ECJ.

European Court of Justice[edit]

The ECJ held that Ms Smith had a claim because she could compare her pay with a former colleague, thus approving Lord Denning MR's dissent on the interpretation of the UK Act.[3] The ECJ explained the equal work

Court of Appeal[edit]

Lord Denning MR, Lawton LJ and Cumming-Bruce LJ ordered Macarthys to pay costs to fulfil the order of the ECJ.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1979] 3 All ER 325
  2. ^ [1979] 3 All ER 325, 329
  3. ^ [1980] Case 129/79
  4. ^ [1980] EWCA Civ 7


External links[edit]