TAKING ACTION: Council’s ethnicity pay gap
Newcastle Civic Centre, Image: NCJ Media
A North East council has vowed to take action to reduce the pay gap between its BAME and white employees.
Newcastle City Council released its ethnicity pay gap for the first time this week, confirming that its non-white staff are paid 4.4% less.
Councillors heard on Thursday that it will “take time to make a difference” in cutting the disparity, although it has reduced from 7.2% in 2019.
Pam Perry, the council’s assistant director for human resources, told the authority’s constitutional committee that BAME staff would be surveyed to find out what barriers to career progression they had personally faced.
She said: “I will be honest, it will take time to make a difference. Because of the financial position we are not doing a huge amount of recruitment, so bringing more people into the organisation is limited.
“But that does not mean we should not be ambitious and challenge ourselves to look at ways we can develop and support progression for everybody in the organisation, but particularly focusing on any gaps there might be.”
In total, 95.8% of the council’s staff are white and just 4.2% come from BAME backgrounds.
Non-white staff are most poorly represented among the highest-earning council jobs, accounting for just 3% of the top quartile according to statistics released this week.
While in the lowest paid 25% of council jobs, a disproportionately high 5.6% are held by BAME employees.
4.4% is the council’s median ethnicity pay gap, which is calculated by finding the middle value in a set of data and compares to the most recent 2019 figure of 9.5% for the North East as a whole. The council’s mean ethnicity pay gap, which uses an average of all employees’ pay, is 7.2%.
City council leader Nick Forbes said: “As a country we have made great strides on equality – but we still have a long way to go before we can honestly say that anyone regardless of their background can get on in life. Many barriers still exist.
“We know that members of the BAME community are less likely to be in work than white people; have less chance of progressing their careers and earn less than their white counterparts. That cannot be right, and as a council we have taken the decision to publish our data – one of the first councils in the region to do so.
“I make no apologies for that. What gets measured, gets done. So, we will publish this data every year to keep a light on it so it can be monitored and positive action taken to reduce it as we make Newcastle a fairer city.”
The Labour leader urged other organisations to also publish their ethnicity pay gap, which is not a legal requirement – unlike with gender.
Coun Karen Kilgour, the council’s deputy leader, told Thursday’s meeting that “fantastic” progress had been made to reduce the pay disparity between men and women at the civic centre and that it was “really positive” that the ethnicity issue is also being tackled now.
Women’s hourly pay rate at the council is 6.7% less than men, significantly lower than the national median of 15.5%.
Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter
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