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Figures show slow progress on gender pay gap

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There has been little change in local government’s gender pay gap over the last year, LGC analysis of newly published data suggests.

Annual audit data for 2018-19 published by 295 councils shows that 58% reported an average pay difference of more than 5% – the threshold deemed “significant” by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This compares to 60% in 2017-18.

Using the mean average of hourly pay rates, 244 councils (83%) have a gender pay gap favouring men and 51 (17%) have a gap favouring women. Only one, Blackpool Council, has no gender pay gap.

Seven councils had a difference in the average hourly pay of more than 20%. The council with the highest gender pay gap was Tonbridge & Malling BC, with 23.9%. Dartford BC had the second highest gap of 23%.

Tonbridge & Malling’s director for central services Adrian Stanfield said: ”Salaries at the council are determined through a grading system which evaluates the job and not the post holder and we are therefore confident that the council provides equal pay regardless of gender.” 

He added the gap reflects a higher proportion of women in lower paid administrative jobs and the fact the council has outsourced services such as refuse collection and street cleansing, which traditionally attracts more male applicants. 

”In an attempt to overcome the bias of tradition we continue to look at strategies for reducing the gender pay gap, with the aim of attracting equal numbers of male and female applicants for all roles across the council and developing gender neutral career pathways,” he added.

Dartford BC has been approached for comment.

At Hampshire CC women’s mean hourly pay rate is 18.3% lower than men’s. A spokesperson said this was a small improvement on the previous year and was not a result of paying men more than women for the same or equivalent work, but because they had kept a large proportion of services in house.

“The majority of our workforce is female, and this is most pronounced at the lower pay grades,” the spokesperson added. “At the same time, however, we are making good progress in supporting more women to progress to higher grade jobs across the county council - with women now making up 54% of senior managers within the organisation.”

Women at Three Rivers DC were paid on average 50% more than men and had a mean pay gap of 18%.

A Three Rivers spokesperson said: “As our lowest paid staff, grounds maintenance and refuse teams, are currently all male, the average is skewed as a result.

North Yorkshire CC has reduced its gender pay gap from 12.1% to 10.9%, which it says is ”significantly ahead” of the national average of 17.1% for public sector workers.

The council said gender pay gaps often arise when women take maternity leave and because many of the council’s lower graded roles such as cleaning, catering and care roles are traditionally part-time and filled by women.

Gareth Dadd (Con), North Yorkshire’s executive member for human resources, said: “We need the best people to run our services and to ensure we find them we must be sure that we are creating a level playing field to attract more women into our top-tier posts,” he said.

When comparing the gender pay gap in councils to that of private companies, using the median as a benchmark this shows that overall, 196 (66%) of councils had a pay gap in favour of men, 78 (26%) favoured women and 22 (7%) reported no difference, whilst in companies nationwide, 78% had a pay gap in favour of men, 14% favoured women and the rest reported no difference.

 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • But how much of this is a result of individual preferences ie more mums choosing to put their career on hold for kids rather than dads vs systemic bias?

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  • One of the off putting things about aspiring to a higher level job in both the public and private sectors, is the expectation and culture that for people at these levels to do extremely long hours and to put family and personal lives at a low priority. As caring responsibilities are still highly gendered, this creates a structural barrier to gender pay equality and puts people off going for the top jobs. There is also the presenteeism culture that gives kudos to people who are apparently working longer hours, no matter how productive , or not, those longer hours are. From my experience local government is better than the private sector in terms of respecting its staff have private lives to manage. Only when jobs are designed so that they can be done in the allotted hours will we begin to address this issue.

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