Gender pay gap at council heading in the right direction

Kelso councillor Simon Mountford.
Kelso councillor Simon Mountford.

The gender gap in pay packets at Scottish Borders Council is narrowing, councillors have been told.

Following recent reports that the council has still to settle 46 historic equal pay claims, Kelso councillor Simon Mountford, the authority’s executive member for human resources, told last week’s full council meeting that the gap was 11.9% in April this year, down from 13% two years ago.

“We are committed to reducing this further,” said Mr Mountford. “I am sure the council has enshrined the principle of equal pay for equal work.”

Around 70% of the authority’s 4,600-strong workforce is female.

Mr Mountford explained that factors contributing to the disparity included a lack of flexible working opportunities disadvantaging women and what he described as “occupational segregation”.

“The council has a comprehensive flexible working policy which allows employees to request a range of flexible working practices,” he said.

“These applications are considered favourably, subject to service requirements.

“We are also addressing the issue of occupational segregation through mandatory equality and diversity training for all employees.

“I am pleased to report that 52.94% of the highest paid 2% and 45.14% of the highest paid 5% of employees are women.

“Both of these figures have seen a consistent increase over the last three years.”

Mr Mountford said the council had now made increased offers to settle 40 of its outstanding equal pay claims.

“The exceptions are six cases in which the particular circumstances of the claim mean it is inappropriate to make an offer,” he added.