HUNDREDS of prison staff are to receive four-figure payouts in a deal hailed as a landmark victory in women's fight for equal pay. The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) had faced an embarrassing employment tribunal amid claims of a "discriminatory" pay deal.

However, the Sunday Herald has learned that the SPS – a Scottish Government agency – has agreed an out-of-court settlement.

The equal pay offer came after a lengthy legal battle over bonuses paid to prison officers totalling £4,000 since 2015 which had not been paid to non-uniformed staff.

A deal made three years ago with the Prison Officers' Association (POA) was met with anger by another union whose members were subject to a one per cent cap on those earning more than £22,000, and a maximum increase of £400 for those on lower salaries.

The PCS, the UK’s largest civil service trade union, argued the £4,000 bonuses for POA members "were discriminatory" as uniformed staff in prisons are predominantly male while women working in jails make up the majority of non-uniformed staff.

However, a £4,000 out-of-court equal pay settlement will now also be paid to 600 non-uniformed staff working in Scotland's prisons. Scottish Prison Service staff getting the cash will include those doing jobs in finance, administrative, maintenance and human resources.

PCS national officer Lynn Henderson said the deal was a victory for equal pay campaigners and a boost to gender equality in the workplace.

Henderson said: "This is a great boost for our members in the Scottish Prison Service (SPS). We're glad that the employer has agreed to address this issue and deliver fairness for these staff. It’s also is a boost for working women across all workplaces.

"The jobs that women do are of equal value and importance to those of men. This settlement proves the power of trade unions in fighting for equality in every workplace in Scotland. But there are also many lower graded staff who won’t get a payment. Like the prison officers and now the other staff in those grades they too have made a huge contribution. So they too deserve to be rewarded in the same way as their higher-graded colleagues."

The PCS said prison officers deserved a pay increase, but claimed it was wrong that the rest of the public sector workforce had not been made a similar offer. A £2,000 lump sum was handed to prison officers in 2015.

Justice secretary Michael Matheson told MSPs in March 2015 that the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) had decided "the one-off payment for prison officers is made in recognition of a specific set of circumstances unique to their frontline role".

However, the SPS then agreed to pay its prison officers £1,000 in spring 2017 and the same amount this year.

PCS officials had said ministers needed to explain why prison officers were treated as as an "exceptional" case but other public sector workers were not and faced pay restraint. The SPS has now agreed that non-unformed staff working in Scotland's jails will get the same bonuses as uniformed officers backdated to the initial payment in 2015. Payments of up to £4,000 will now be made to 600 staff.

An SPS spokesman confirmed an agreement had been reached with the PCS.

The Scottish Government declined to add to the SPS comment.

The Sunday Herald approached the POA for a response.