Councils miss equal pay deadline by more than two years

A third of councils in England and Wales have not concluded equal pay reviews, more than two years after a deadline to do so, according to a Local Government Employers survey.

The results of the poll of 325 authorities, conducted in May and June this year, represent slow progress since a similar survey in April 2008, which found 42% of authorities had not completed reviews.

The latest survey found two-thirds had completed or largely completed equal pay reviews or did not need to do so, either because their pay arrangements were equitable or because they are not bound by the 1997 single status agreement.

In 2004, unions and employers set a deadline of April 2007 to complete the requirement under single status for authorities to review job roles and eradicate inequities between male-dominated and female-dominated occupations, such as social care.

Jon Sutcliffe, principal strategic adviser at LGE, which supports councils on industrial relations and pay issues, admitted progress had been slow. However, he said he was “encouraged” that deals were now being signed off.

Progress “ground to a halt” last year, following two court rulings limiting councils’ and unions’ ability to negotiate temporary protection for men who would lose out from implementing equal pay, said Sutcliffe.

The LGE survey found 37 councils were still in the process of job evaluation, under which jobs are compared against a range of criteria.

Twenty-seven councils had reached agreement locally but unions were unprepared to sign off the deal nationally, which Sutcliffe warned risked putting local deals at risk.

It also found 94 councils – 52 that had completed equal pay reviews and 42 that had not – were locked in employment tribunal cases on the issue.

Sutcliffe said some of these councils would have a “hangover effect” from these cases over several years due to legal costs or unfavourable decisions.

GMB national secretary Brian Strutton blamed slow progress in part on the “absolutely shambolic” state of equal pay law with councils worried about exposing themselves to further litigation.

He added: “I’ve got a lot of sympathy with those difficulties. What I don’t have any sympathy for is those employers who simply don’t like the cost.”

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