Women call out gender pay gap and launch claim against city council

Women call out gender pay gap and launch claim against city council
  • Thousands of women have launched a pay claim against Sheffield City Council 
  • Claim says women in cleaning, care work and teaching assistant roles are being paid less than men in equivalent positions
  • GMB union says women could be missing out on as much as £11,000 each year

Thousands of women have launched a pay claim against Sheffield City Council, England, after discovering a discrepancy showing they are being paid less than men in equivalent roles. 

According to workers’ union GMB, they could be missing out on thousands of pounds each year – potentially up to £11,000 ($13,450) in certain job roles. 

The claim centres around Sheffield City Council’s job evaluation scheme and how it affects women-dominated roles such as cleaning, care work and teaching assistants. 

GMB say that cleaning roles, which are predominantly filled by women, are grade 1, while caretakers, who are more often men, are grade 3, translating to a pay difference of £1,710 ($2,000) a year. 

In the most extreme case a senior teaching assistant role is grade 5, while a night-time noise officer role is grade 7, equivalent to a difference of  £11,383. 

Disparities in council salaries

Kat Fletcher, regional head of campaigns at GMB, explains: “Let’s say you have job group A where you have care workers, cleaners, senior teaching assistants, care managers and housing officers, who are the people making sure you are settled into a new tenancy for example. 

“Then job group B also has housing team staff, but these are people who deal with noise complaints at night, as well as caretakers, cemetery workers and highway workers. All these roles go through a job evaluation scheme. 

“We think that a lot of these jobs are comparable – for example, if you’re a manager in the housing office, we think that’s comparable to being the person that tells people to turn their noise down late at night after a complaint. But if you’re in group B your grades are higher than if you’re in group A, and it just so happens that all the jobs that are mainly done by women are in group A, and jobs mainly done by men are in group B.” 

Fletchers says that local councils’ job evaluation scheme doesn’t reflect how many of these roles have evolved over time. “Teaching assistants, in a lot of cases, used to be mums working for a bit of extra money, who would go into the classroom and read to the children,” she says. “That’s not the job of a teaching assistant nowadays. They are serious professionals, they have qualifications and they are a key part of the classroom.”  

“It’s the same with care work. Initially a lot of these women would have been doing quite low skilled, but very important work, whereas now they’re doing medical feeding and all sorts of intimate care.” 

“Unfair” job scheme

England’s local councils  have seen their spending power cut by 17.5% since 2010, leading to significant cuts across services. Fletcher explains this has also impacted how they calculate salaries. “Let’s say there is a vacancy and £23,000 ($28,120) available. They will make the job fit the £23,000 rather than evaluate the job.” 

The pay claim goes back six years – the legal maximum time it can cover, and the union wants the council to meet with them and redress the pay disparity. “The figure of £11,000 is the most extreme example because that would imply that the senior teaching assistant is at the very bottom of their grade, and the comparable role – the noise officer, is at the top of theirs,” Fletcher explains. 

“In some cases, it may be more like £8,000 ($9,780), and for cleaning roles it is a little under £2,000 a year. But it is just as impactful, if you think about the hours women have to work which is less time spent with their families.”

“We want the job allocation scheme, which is absolutely rotten to its core, scrapped,” Fletcher says. “We want all jobs put through a proper job evaluation and taken out of this fake job family scheme that’s hiding this unfairness.” 

GMB is calling on women from across the council workforce to get in touch to discuss whether they have a claim.


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