North Herts council leader: ‘We must look behind gender pay gap figures’

Councillor Lynda Needham, leader of North Herts District Council. Picture: NHDC

Councillor Lynda Needham, leader of North Herts District Council. Picture: NHDC - Credit: Archant

North Herts District Council leader Lynda Needham, speaking in a personal capacity, discusses the gender pay gap after the latest figures were published – a requirement enforced by law to tackle discrimination in the workplace.

All organisations with more than 250 employees have been required to complete a gender pay gap survey and publish the outcome of the findings – but it is very clear that there is confusion between the gender pay gap and equal pay, and the two are not the same thing.

Certainly NHDC has an equal pay policy to ensure we pay the same to men and women for doing the work of equal pay.

So why, you may ask, are the percentage figures for NHDC so wide following the outcome of the gender pay gap work? One cause of a significant gender pay gap is the distribution of the roles men and women hold in companies and local authorities such as NHDC.

Sixty-five per cent of our employees are female – attracted by our flexible working schemes and willingness to offer part time work which, if domestic responsibilities are involved, make NHDC an attractive choice.

Most of our female employees are in grades 1–8. Equally the jobs which attract young males are within our leisure services, waste collection and grounds maintenance, all of which are contracted out and therefore cannot be used to redress the uneven balance.

However, one of the most positive outcomes of this exercise is to remind us of the comparative lack of women in more senior roles within the council and we must now work to address this situation. What extra support can we put in place? What learning and development is needed to try and increase the number of women in senior roles? Although we know why numbers are as they are, it has been a good exercise in understanding the need to assist women into higher roles.

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Naturally I have looked at comparisons with other authorities in Herts and also wider afield and these comparison exercises have borne out the impact that that contracting out services has made to the outcome of the gender pay gap formula.

All councils looked at with a very low gap or even females showing a positive figure still operate all services internally. Hopefully the powers who requested these statistics will look behind the figures and not judge on the bottom line.