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 www.blairmcpherson.co.uk