Many councils still failing to sign up to gender pay equality

Less than 60% of English and Welsh councils have completed equal pay job reviews, despite previous assurances from employers that 75% would be complete by April, Community Care has learned.

The latest figures from Local Government Employers followed a landmark Court of Appeal ruling restricting employers’ ability to set up transitional arrangements to protect the pay of council employees – typically men – who lose out in equal pay settlements.

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In January this year Jon Sutcliffe, LGE principal strategic adviser, said it was a “minimum, legitimate expectation” that 75% of councils would have undertaken equal pay reviews by 1 April 2008. This was despite an original deadline of April 2007 for all local authorities to complete and implement the evaluations.

Stalled progress

However, the latest figures show only 58% had completed the reviews by July. “We’d always hoped there would be more progress towards 100% completion by this stage, but, given that progress had stalled at 37% for some time…to have achieved this has to be regarded as a measured success for local government,” said Sutcliffe.

In cases brought by hundreds of female workers against transitional arrangements made by Redcar and Cleveland, Lord Justice Mummery ruled against the council, saying lengthy pay protection for male staff perpetuated unfair discrimination.

Transitional arrangments

He accepted an argument brought by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which intervened in the case, that transitional arrangements could be legal so long as they disadvantaged women to the least possible extent.

However, Sutcliffe said: “The dilemma that the judgement around pay protection brings us is that either we have to spend a great deal more money on the women bringing cases, or we have to bring in pay and grading structures without pay protection, and that risks industrial action. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. It leaves councils with a very sombre risk assessment to make.”

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