Laura Sharman 17 October 2016

Council accused of ‘dragging its feet’ over equal pay claim

Council accused of ‘dragging its feet’ over equal pay claim image

More than 60 women are challenging Reading Council in court today, arguing they are owed more than £1.5m in equal pay claims.

Trade union Unison said the council is the only local authority in England and Wales to never settle an equal pay claim. It also accused the council of using the £9m set aside to pay the claims to balance its budget instead.

‘Reading council has known for many years it was guilty of treating its low-paid male and female employees very differently,’ said Unison south east regional secretary Maggi Ferncombe.

‘But rather than cough up the cash owed when it had the chance, the local authority has instead chosen to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on expensive lawyers trying to avoid settling the case.

‘The council’s actions are nothing short of immoral. The stress of the last seven years has taken its toll upon many of the women, who will be hoping that today really is the beginning of the end.’

The case is based on the fact the council paid men substantially more for doing equivalent jobs.

Although the council accepted it had broken equal pay laws seven years ago, none of the women have received any backdated pay.

A statement from Reading Borough Council said: 'Where historic claims arise they are dealt with on a case-by-case basis and through the employment tribunal system. Considerable research is required going back a number of years in terms of historic salaries, allowances, changes in individual circumstances and, in particular, the exact day-to-day duties undertaken. There are around 180 claimants across 45 different roles. Job descriptions, and comparisons between different roles, then need to be agreed by all sides via the tribunal system.

'As a result cases are complex and can take some time to resolve. The council needs to make allowances for this, both in terms of legal fees and settlement payments. Timescales are also governed by the tribunal’s own timescales. This year some delays have also been as a result of responses from legal representatives of the claimants themselves.

'Progress is being made on settlement discussions. By the end of this year the council hopes to be in a position to begin to make payments in some individual cases. This is likely to continue through 2017. Where there are areas of dispute, partial payments will also be considered where appropriate and pending on-going discussions.'

For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Education, Health and Care (EHC) Co-ordinators

Buckinghamshire Council
£30,874 - £37,188 per annum
Interested in a career as an EHC Coordinator? Come along to our drop-in event to meet members of the SEND team and find out more about the role! England, Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury
Recuriter: Buckinghamshire Council

Planning Officer - Regeneration

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£29,636 - £33,799 per annum
You will be involved in several exciting major regeneration schemes, bringing forward significant land for housing... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recuriter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Driver / Workshop Assistant

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£20,344 - £23,836 per annum
Duties and responsibilities to include but not limited to... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recuriter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Senior Solicitor - Litigation

North West Leicestershire District Council
Band G, £33,799 - £37,849
Our friendly, entrepreneurial and Lexcel accredited Legal Services Team is looking for a Senior Solicitor with a litigation specialism. Coalville, Leicestershire
Recuriter: North West Leicestershire District Council

Caretaker and General Hand

Essex County Council
Essex County Council (ECC) is one of the largest and most dynamic local authorities in the UK, serving a population of 2 million residents, and has a England, Essex, Colchester
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Local Government News

Latest issue - Local Goverrnemnt News

This issue of Local Government News explores how councils can tackle modern slavery and trafficking in their supply chains, finds out more about Cambridge's first cohousing scheme and the launch of a new project to build a shared service pattern library for local government.

This issue also contains a special focus on children's services and how councils are protecting children following local safeguarding children boards being abolished.

Register for your free magazine