Gender pay gap - Group Leader's Comment - 2 February 2018

Tuesday 6 February marks 100 years since the passage of the Representation of the People Act, which enabled some women over 30 to vote.

This provides stark context to the burning issue of the gender pay gap, which has been in the news again this week.

Like me, many of you will have been amazed to see the footballer-type salaries coming out of the BBC’s public purse and I am sure you will have been interested to see their massive gender pay gap revealed.

Meanwhile, Glasgow City Council is making back payments to thousands of women employees who may have been paid less than their male colleagues. The original court ruling was overturned and they can now pursue equal pay claims against the council. That is about paying the same salary for the same job. But what about a tendency to promote one group of people in preference to another, resulting in a pay gap?

Councils are now required to publish their pay by gender as snapshot figures from 5 April 2017 by 31 March 2018. The figures have to be retained on the employer’s website for three years and also appear on the designated Government website. At the outset, the female Chief Executive of Doncaster wrote a helpful article in our First magazine (Issue 615 Sept 2017) about their work towards equality in all fields. Some councils are accompanying their publication of the figures on pay with press coverage.

Clearly this is not about giving anyone an advantage on the basis of their gender, creed or any other characteristic. It is about making sure no-one is overlooked so that everyone has a fair chance to succeed and the organisation has the best person for the job.

The gender pay for all public authorities is being collected on the government website. It includes mean and median hourly rates, bonuses and the percentage of employees in each pay quartile. Searching on “council”, there are 32 that have so far published their gender pay gap with reports ranging from very little gender difference to women paid on average around a quarter less. Other authorities will be working to ensure that when they publish, there is already an action plan in place and some improvement.

Schools are currently excluded from the requirement. The question of how to calculate the retained fire-fighters hourly rate is still to be resolved. It will either be very high or very low, depending on whether you count contact time or time “on call”.

Councillors are not included in the legislation for equality, since we are not “employed under contract”. This is the same reason we can be excluded from the requirement for pensions. However, since we are working so hard to improve the representative nature of our local government, it would seem bizarre to exclude those responsible from our attention. Since councillor allowances are public, it is relatively easy to do the sums. On the most recent figures published on one of my councils, the gender pay gap for average councillor allowance special responsibilities was 25 per cent less for women. Is this something we should be looking at more widely, I wonder?


Back to work schemes "help to tackle pay gap"

There is a new £5 million Government fund to encourage people back to work in the public sector. This must be claimed by universities, so it may be worth asking your council if they are working with your local universities to make this happen. The scheme includes civil servants, including teachers, social workers and health professionals, who have left their professions for a career break.