Council reveals gender pay gap
SOLIHULL Council has become the latest local authority to confirm that its female employees earn less than their male colleagues.
The council has published details of its gender pay gap, with figures revealing that women’s hourly earnings are 18.6 per cent lower (when taking a mean average), stretching to 27.2 per cent when using a median average.
Analysis shows that the council – which has a workforce which is 75 per cent female – is trailing public sector averages for both the UK and West Midlands region.
A report presented to Solihull’s remuneration committee this week argued that its figures were skewed by the fact that school catering staff – a low-paid group which is almost exclusively female – are direct employees of the council. In some other local authorities, this service is outsourced.
Gina Dutton, a Solihull-based activist for the Women’s Equality Party, said: “Councils and other public bodies have a special responsibility to tackle inequality in their own ranks. If they cannot set an example and close their gender pay gaps, then private companies will take the mes- sage that this is not an issue of importance. It should be a top priority for councils like Solihull, which is the latest to reveal a major pay gap, to investigate why women are being paid less than men, and what they need to do to resolve the problem.”
The party has called on councils to release further data on their parental leave, childcare and flexible working policies.
Andrew Bazeley, policy and insight manager at women’s rights charity the Fawcett Society, said it was right that Solihull Council looked at the underlying causes of the gender pay gap.
“We urge all employers to go further to close the gap. Flexible work- ing is available to some employees – why not make it the default, including at the point of advertisement?
“Can you justify the much lower sums that are paid for some roles where the employees are predominantly women?”
Cllr Karl Macnaughton (Green, Chelmsley Wood) said he was pleased the council was looking at the longer-term but that there were still issues to address.
He added: “On the catering issue I can totally see that skews what we’re doing, but let’s not also forget that part of that problem is very low pay versus very high pay and the reducing proportion of women – even though each quartile has more women then men - as you go up the scale.”
Cllr Robert Hulland, the committee’s chair, insisted there was no “glass ceiling” at Solihull Council, noting that half of the directors were women and half were men.
“The data gives us an opportunity to look inside our organisation and see where we are,” he said.
“The figure of 18 per cent in some ways doesn’t mean a great deal in itself, it’s how it compares with other organisations in the area and also how we compare against ourselves in future years.
“So certainly we will be looking forward to how that moves forward.”