Mark Grimley, Director of HR, introduced the report which provided information on the Council’s current position for gender parity and future activities to improve where required.
He explained that gender reporting regulations would come into force next year. Every organisation over a certain size would have a duty to report on this and it was part of the government’s commitment through the Equalities Act.
Making some caveats for the report, he explained the prescribed format for gender pay reporting set out in the regulations was subject to a change control with BT, as information was required in a specific format. BT were currently addressing this request as part of the Council’s improvement plan but the data BT held, was not as informative as it could be at this stage, as it had not been through quality assurance. The report provided details of where the Council would be looking at its gender equality duty, looking at base salaries (which did not include total renumeration), but which will be a requirement under the gender regulations.
Mark explained Councils have had an equal pay duty for a long time. The Council’s pay and grading structures look at a job evaluation scheme, it uses the London Scheme which allows Council’s to examine like for like roles in an objective way and so on this basis, Councils gender pay gap are in a better position than a number of other organisations. Highlighting the most recent data, Mark explained that nationally the United Kingdom has an unadjusted pay gap of 21 per cent. However, in Local Government specifically, this difference ranged from 5% to 8%.
Speaking specifically about the Council, Mark highlighted the distribution of the hours worked by different genders. He explained there was a part time bias for female members of staff which scewed the data sets of the pro rata figures. The other area concerned where staff were represented by gender at different levels within the organisation and from the data the Council has, there appeared to be a ceiling at about PO5 where there was less progression for females compared to males.
The Chair asked for further clarification of what PO5 meant. Mark explained this grade was for a senior qualified professional and there appeared to be a barrier at PO5. This was not so much about the equality of pay at that level, but more about whether there were barriers to progression at that level.
Referring to Chart 1 and the table disparity, Mark highlighted the cumulative representation. Throughout the organisation, it was noted the Council had a grade distribution by gender which was much higher for males, and one of the areas HR was investigating was whether lots of females started at the entry level of a grade, grade progression and whether females were not progressing as fast as males. Mark provided details of how the four spinal points within grades worked.
The final point to note was that at very senior levels, there was pay parity within the Council, which was very unusual for a Local Authority. This was acknowledged as a positive step which needed to trickle down throughout the organisation.
The Chair highlighted that one of the roles of Policy Accountability Committees was to provide officers with ideas and suggestions and highlight those areas where policy could be developed. As such he encouraged Committee members to provide suggestions from their own professional experiences.
Looking at the total salary bill, Chris Littmoden asked what percentage of pay was basic and what was other. Mark explained that 98% were basic salaries.
In relation to job descriptions across Local Government, Chris Littmoden asked whether there were prescribed job descriptions across councils. Mark explained that there were a number of schemes that could be adopted and in the Council’s case, this was the Greater London Provinicial Council which was a job evaluation scheme that had been agreed nationally with the Trade Unions where the Council applied a scoring. Where the Council had local discretion, was where it chose to put the scores against the 4 spinal points.
Referring to Table 3 in the report, Tony Boys asked for further clarification about the specific grades and suggested it would have been helpful if the table had included a legend to explain how these ascended. Tony Boys explained it would also be helpful to have a better understanding of the roles and functions the grade numbers represented, rather than a series of numbers.
Mark explained that as part of the gender pay reporting, HR would be investigating the under representation within groups of workers, for example under representation of females at senior professional levels in Planning and Engineering and to look at these against the Council’s talent management policies.
Councillor Michael Adam asked about the extent to which HR had access to benchmarking data from other London Boroughs. Mark explained that other London Boroughs were undergoing similar changes to Hammmersmith and Fulham and it was unlikely that data would be available until February 2018.
Councillor Vivien Lukey noted the report covered the Council and its legal obligations but highlighted that Council contractors did not have the same obligations. Mark was asked what steps the Council was taking to ensure there was better gender distribution amongst the contractors because in many cases, they were the front door of the Council, and what members of the public saw was largely men. In response, Mark explained that a larger number of the corporate and private sector contractors would be reporting on gender pay for the first time and it was a hot topic within the HR community.
Mark explained that one of the benefits of gender pay reporting was that the Council would be able to introduce much greater monitoring. This included its use of lower paid workers, the wage levels and the transfer of staff. Mark confirmed the Council was looking at how it could influence this in the future.
The Chair asked whether this approach would be going forwards to procurement, acquiring services and how the Council would mark organisations competing for contracts? Michal Hainge, Commercial Director, provided details of the current procurement process and confirmed that it was Council policy to give preference to firms that demonstrated equality of pay through gender and other protected characteristics.
The Chair asked whether the committee, through officers, could ask Cabinet to look at an equal pay focus on procurement? Tony Boys agreed with Councillor Adams request about external benchmarking data. He highlighted that there were a number of websites which could be used to provide comparator information, including what the median salaries were, which could then be used to inform future pay policies. In response, Mark explained that while these sites had a role, the source data and the context were really important considerations. The best data the Council will receive would be provided by the London Benchmarking Service, which would be able to provide Public sector to Public comparisons. Mark explained that one of the activities Hammersmith was focusing on, was salary levels, as well the disparity between levels. Mark provided an overview of how salaries compared between local authorities, the dangers associated with matching salaries and the impact this would have on the Authorities’ wage bill.
Chris Littmoden asked about the trends, where the Council’s start point was and the actions required to take the Council to where it aspired to be. Mark provided an overview of the activities which were underway, including the Review of the Pay Strategy which would begin in 2018, trend analysis and an examination of the Council’s Talent Strategy.
Tony Boys highlighted that pay was not the only consideration and asked what the other motivators were which attracted prople to work for the Council? In response, Mark referenced the Staff Survey and explained that staff were proud to work for Hammersmith and Fulham, proud of the connection to the community and it was seen across London as a caring organisation which made the Council stand out amongst inner London Boroughs. Other drivers included the opportunities to develop and progress.
The Chair highlighted the statistics in Table 1 of the report and the difficulties of extrapolating the information and asked that this be improved going forwards. Referencing Table 3 and specifically the S01 information, he asked what the barriers were to personal development and progression at this level, as well as, what the percentage difference was between males and female salaries.
Looking at the report in an overall context, the Chair highlighted that at one level the Council appeared to be doing well on the gender pay gap compared to public sector neighbours. However, at every role level, bar 3, men were earning more than women. The Chair asked if officers knew why this was? Mark explained that a key area of work was looking at the spinal points, where women were recruited and whether there was a retention issue. In which case, was it a matter of women choosing to leave the organisation and being replaced by another female whom then started at the lower spinal point.
Summarising the position, the Chair explained that it looked as though the Council could not retain female staff (compared to men) and questioned why this occurred. The other possible explanation was (as a generalisation) men tended to market themselves better at interview than women. The Chair asked whether there was scope to negotiate a higher spinal point entry at interview and if this was commonplace. In response, Mark highlighted that the Council’s Pay Policy Statement had a starting salary statement whereby when a new member of staff was appointed, they would be recruited at the bottom of a grade unless it could be demonstrated at interview, that previous experienced warranted a different starting salary.
Kim Dero, Interim Chief Executive, added that confidence in some people was certainly a factor and an area which would be explored further. She highlighted that a Women in Leadership event would be taking place in January 2018 which sought to empower 40 women into leadership as it would be taking a live cohort of staff forwards. Kim highlighted that other work areas were focusing on the acting up opportunities for women across the Council, the use of agency staff and whether the Council’s processes were geared towards encouraging internal applicants to apply for more senior roles. Kim offered to provide an update on progress in the new year. In relation to talent opportunities, Mark explained that the Get Ahead Programme was still in its infancy but sought to develop internal talent within the organisation.
Councillor Vivienne Lukey highlighted that one of the greatest disparities in pay was between agency staff and permanent staff and so steps which could be taken to reduce the agency pay bill, as well as, encourage the progression of internal staff was welcome. The Chair recounted some of his experiences about working in the private sector, the importance of taking risks on people and how he could not recount where this had not been successful. He explained that often what held people back was the expectation of how long you needed to do a job or the type of job and there was more work which needed to be done around leadership and talent spotting.
Providing details of her personal experience, Kim Dero explained that had she not been encouraged to take up the Interim Chief Executive role, she would not have applied for the permanent post. Kim highlighted that it was important to monitor pay, progression, and staff development to try and create a learning culture so the Council could improve as an organisation.
2. The committee asked that the cabinet look at equal pay/pay disparity as part of the procurement process
3. That Officers be requested to look at the 100 most recent hires to see if men entered the organisation on a different spine point to women.