£10m equal pay claim sparks employer alarm

Employers have been urged to carry out equal pay reviews
after a union lodged the UK’s biggest ever pay claim, against Lancashire County
Council.

Unison’s £10m claim on behalf of nearly 1,000 teaching
assistants could be the tip of the iceberg as the union is considering lodging
a raft of similar claims against other local authorities.

Julie Mellor, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission,
warned employers they must act if they want to ensure they are not vulnerable
to similar claims.

“The size of this claim underlines the need for
organisations, both public and private, to carry out pay reviews,” she said.

County councillor Tony Martin, who has responsibility for HR
at the Lancashire authority, is hopeful an agreement could be reached with
Unison before the complaint goes to tribunal.

The claim argues that school support staff are employed to
do work of equal value to male comparators employed in the environment
directorate, such as street lighting technicians.

Martin warned that if the pay claim was imposed in full, it
could lead to some teaching assistant posts being axed.

He also expressed concern at some of the comparisons being
made by Unison between work carried out by teaching assistants and staff in the
environment directorate.

“This [pay claim] would take a senior support assistant to
the level of a newly-qualified teacher. School governing bodies will decide
that they can do without them,” he said.

Jane Robinson, a spokeswoman for Unison, warned that the
union is poised to lodge further equal pay claims against other councils,
depending on how the Lancashire complaint is settled.

Employees will soon be able to request information on the
pay of members of the opposite sex at the same level using equal pay
questionnaires, being introduced as part of the Employment Act later this year.

By
Ben Willmott

 

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