Two thirds of councils have a significant gender pay gap, according to exclusive LGC analysis of government data.
Analysis of gender pay audit data published by 293 councils shows that found that 193 had reported an average pay difference of more than 5% – the threshold deemed “significant” by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Of those 193 councils, 175 paid men significantly more than women whereas 18 paid women significantly more than men. LGC found that the greatest factor affecting a council’s overall pay gap difference as an average was the percentage of women working in the bottom 25% of pay grades.
These findings come as Unison warned some councils “have a very carefree attitude to equal pay”.
Arun DC reported a “larger than typical” pay gap with men earning a mean hourly rate which is 31.7% higher than that for women. In its gender pay gap report, the council said the difference is not due to comparative pay levels for men and women “being substantially inequitable”, but rather due to the fact 63% of its bottom quarter of earners are women, while 59% of its highest earners are men.
Epsom & Ewell DC reported the biggest average pay gap in favour of women. The council said in its pay gap report the difference was because ”the majority of front-line operatives are men” (76% of the council’s lowest quarter of earners are men), while “line management and senior management roles are held by a significant proportion of women”.
A council spokesperson said they were pleased to be viewed as an example of “egalitarian best practice”, and added “while observing all equalities legislation, all we do when recruiting is try and get the best person for the job”.
Unison’s head of local government Heather Wakefield claimed some councils have excluded outsourced staff as well as those working for schools from their gender pay gap reports. Councils were instructed by the Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitrations Service not to include school staff in calculations.
She said: “Some councils have a very carefree attitude to equal pay and they think it won’t come round to haunt them, but if you look at the enormous payouts Birmingham recently had to make then they should be taking it very seriously.”
Birmingham City Council faced a £1.1bn bill for backdated claims involving thousands of workers after 174 former workers won an equal pay case in 2014.
Ms Wakefield said the reason most councils had not reported on this issue in the past was “partly due to costs and partly due to a lack of capacity of skills” to carry out assessments.
Doncaster MBC became the first council to publish a detailed equal pay audit in 2017, finding on average its female workers earn 15.7% less than men. The council said this was due to comen makng up 88% of its lowest paid quartile of staff.
Jo Miller, Doncaster’s chief executive, said it is important senior council officers analyse their data in detail to “understand their narrative” and ensure they know what they are doing “to enable women and ethnic minorities within your organisations [to progress]”.
Ms Miller, who is also president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, urged councils to reflect the populations they serve and “not miss out on valuable talent” as “that has a cost”.
“Research from the consultancy firm McKinsey showed that firms with more equality across the top levels are more likely to create value and be the most profitable, while those the least diversity have less profitability and value creation,” Ms Miller said, and added:
“There is a prize for leading and a penalty for lagging.”