The Public Sector is supposed to be a model employer 

The public sector is expected to behave differently to the private sector. Where as the private sector often requires legislation to improve the condition of workers or act in a way that does not maximise profit the public sector has a wider remit to set a good example for the benefit of the wider community. Local Authorities are expected to be model employers, or they were! 

Recent figures released by the government show most councils are failing to address the gender pay gap and in many cases it is widening. Historically women have been disproportionately represented in the most junior grades and despite more women in senior management posts this is not being effectively addressed in development opportunities and promotion prospects. Austerity has also contribution to this lack of progress with many LAs cutting management posts particularly middle management posts reducing promotion prospects and making the step up much bigger. This  in itself can be off putting but when coupled with a long hours culture and a bias against flexible hours and part time working for senior posts it’s yet another barrier. 

Even where some LAs are seeing a narrowing of the pay gap the explanation may simply be that they have out sourced a chunk of low paid work which was predominantly undertaken by women such as home care or the admin functions in HR. 

It’s yet another example of how LAs have changed their employee relations in response to the demand to increase efficiency and reducing costs, like changes in terms and conditions of employment which remove enhancements for evening and weekend work or don’t pay enhanced rates for overtime. The same mentality which has introduced inflexible and harsh absence management policies and reduced the time period for sick pay. The same mentally which results in changes in working practises being imposed rather than negotiated.The same mentality that leads to a bullying culture increasingly identified in the NHS , a charge to which LAs are not immune.  

How long before a local Authority somewhere moves to the “ gig” economy for all low grade posts and imposes zero contract hours and no holiday or sick pay just like the more efficient private sector? 

I think the NHS has already lost the right to claim to be a model employer and most members and senior managers would shy away from making that claim for their Local Authority. 

Blair Mcpherson former Local Authority Director 


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