17 September 2007
Female council workers in Knowsley are the latest in the UK to receive offers of compensation for past pay inequality. On Tuesday 4th September, hundreds of council employees were made offers by the council, but union officials advised that these offers were only a quarter of what the women could hope to receive if they took their claims to a court or tribunal.
In Knowsley, it is believed that road sweepers receive a £100 bonus per week, whereas kitchen assistants, doing work evaluated as being of equal worth, receive no such bonus. Male-dominated jobs often receive bonuses or other special allowances, while female-dominated jobs have no such special treatment.
Chris Benson, discrimination lawyer at Leigh Day & Co Solicitors, says:
“It is always important to seek legal advice before signing away any rights; female employees in the council are legally entitled to six years of back pay. At £100 per week this works out as in excess of £30,000 that female workers are being denied. This is a substantial amount and is far more than is being offered by the council”.
Council workers often have many questions about single status, job evaluation and the offers they have been made, and so Leigh Day have been holding advice sessions for hundreds of women all over the country. Representatives will be in the Knowsley area on Thursday 13th September to advise people about the offers.
Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council are making these offers in an attempt to compensate for the years of pay inequality between men and women, with the gap in pay as large as 50% between workers on the same grade in some local authorities. The women have until October to decide whether to accept the offers or not. Any money will probably be accompanied by an agreement that prevents any claims for equal pay being pursued, either now or in the future.
Nationally the pay gap has closed to around 18% but there is evidence to show that this gap may once again be on the rise.
Local Authorities often limit compensation offers to current jobs or current employees, ignoring those who have worked for the council and been underpaid in the past. Trade Unions also typically advise people in this position that they do not have a claim. However, Leigh Day are representing hundreds of women who have not been made offers by local authorities, and are negotiating to secure compensation on their behalf.
Knowsley Council is only now making offers of compensation after failing to meet the agreed deadline for the “Single Status Agreement” of the 1st April 2007, in which job evaluations had to be carried out by the council to ensure fair pay. This deadline was agreed between the unions and the local authorities back in 1997 and yet only around a third of councils have complied. The Equal Pay Act and the Sex Discrimination Act were implemented in 1975 to overcome the longstanding pay inequality between the sexes but it has taken until now for employers to make this legislation a reality.
For more information on the work Leigh Day has been doing in advising women about equal pay visit the equal pay website
or use the freephone advice line on 0800 037 4045.
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