Commission investigates equal pay for Pupil Support Assistants in Glasgow City Council

26 March 2009

The Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland (EHRC) will today use its investigatory powers for the first time in Scotland when it launches an investigation into whether Glasgow City Council’s pay and grading arrangements provide equal pay for Pupil Support Assistants (PSAs). 

The Commission is conducting this investigation because it suspects that the job evaluation and new pay system introduced by the Council from April 2006 does not meet the legal requirements of the Equal Pay Act, the Statutory Code of Practice on Equal Pay and the EHRC guidance on job evaluation schemes free from sex bias.  The Commission is particularly concerned that the job evaluation process adopted by the Council may be discriminatory because it does not appear to measure equally the significant features of both female and male jobs and therefore may continue to undervalue the type of work traditionally done by women.

Morag Alexander, Scotland Commissioner and Investigating Commissioner said:
'We know that the deep-rooted and discriminatory undervaluation of so-called women’s work is a major cause of Scotland’s gender pay gap. It does not come as a surprise that many of the equal pay claims lodged with our employment tribunals are on this very issue.  The Commission launches this investigation today to identify if the Council is acting unlawfully.  However, this enforcement action also emphasises the importance of addressing the undervaluing of women’s work through non-discriminatory pay and job evaluation systems.

'The issue at the heart of this investigation is about ensuring equal pay for the future through a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory pay and reward system.  By not adhering to this, employers risk costly equal pay litigation that may resolve the issue for some women, but which fails systematically to prevent future unequal pay or serve the wider public interest."
The investigation will be complete by the end of this year.  Once the investigation has reached a conclusion, a full report of the Commission’s findings, and any recommendations, will be published.'

Ends

For more information, please contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission Media Office on 0141 228 5979 or 07970 541 369.

Notes to editors

The terms of reference for the investigation are:

The Commission is conducting an Investigation under section 20 of the Equality Act 2006.  The Commission is embarking on an Investigation because it has grounds to suspect that Glasgow City Council (the Council) is in breach of the equality clause in the contracts of Pupil Support Assistants (PSAs) and in developing and implementing the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) has acted contrary to the requirements of the Equal Pay Act 1970 (as amended). 

The Commission will investigate whether or not the Council is committing an unlawful act contrary to the requirements of the Equal Pay Act 1970 (as amended) by:

  1. Identifying the grades and all associated rates of pay as at 1 September 2006 (prior to the implementation of the WPBR) for women and men in the WPBR job population.
  2. Identifying the grades, all associated rates of pay, ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ scores and weighting for women and men in the WPBR job population as at 31 October 2008.
  3. Identifying whether the implementation of WPBR has had any differential effect on those jobs assimilated to WPBR, (as at October 2008) in comparison to the position and total remuneration of the same jobs prior to the implementation of the WPBR (as at October 2006).
  4. Assessing the impact of the implementation of the WPBR on PSAs and male dominated jobs requiring equal levels of demand, such as effort, skill and decision in the same employment.
  5. Examining whether the procedures adopted by the Council in relation to the evaluation of PSAs and comparator male dominated jobs comply with the EOC Code of Practice on Equal Pay and Equal Pay Act read with European law.
  6. If the WPBR is found not to comply with the terms of the Equal Pay Act, using non-discriminatory job evaluation, identify which male dominated jobs in the WPBR job population are of equal value to PSA jobs.
  7. If a difference in pay is found to exist between PSAs and comparable male dominated jobs, investigating whether any explanation put forward by the Council as to the reason for the differences in pay is a material and genuine cause of the difference in pay and, if tainted by discrimination, whether such discrimination can be justified.
  8. Determining whether the Council is committing an unlawful act by failing to provide equal pay for PSAs contrary to the Equal Pay Act and set out the justifications for this finding in a final report.
  9. Making recommendations to prevent any breaches of the Equal Pay Act.

The investigation will be conducted following the terms of Schedule 2 of the Act.  If there is evidence that the Council has committed an unlawful act in breach of the Equal Pay Act the Commission may issue the Council with an unlawful act notice under section 21 of the Act, including a legal notice to prepare an action plan to remedy the unlawful act and prevent repetition and recommend action to be taken by the Council. 

As part of the investigation, the Commission will require the Council to provide specific information about the pay and job evaluation system and the outcomes for women and men employed by the Council.  This evidence will be analysed to identify if the Council have committed an unlawful act in breach of the Equal Pay Act. The investigation will also hear evidence from the Council, trade unions and solicitors representing PSAs.

The Commission will publish a report of its findings from this investigation and a court or tribunal may have regard for this report during its consideration of any relevant equal pay claims.  The Council is also obliged to have regard to any recommendations that stem from the investigation.

The grounds for suspecting the Council may be in breach of the equal pay act stem from the findings of the Equal Opportunities Commission (the EOC was one of the three legacy equality commissions brought together to form the new Equality and Human Rights Commission in October 2007) general formal investigation into the role and status of classroom assistants in Scottish schools. 

The EHRC began enquiries into the new pay and grading system implemented by Glasgow City Council and the pay of PSAs after receiving information and complaints about the proposed pay and grading of PSAs resulting from the Council’s Workforce Pay and Benefits Review.  After discussions and analysis of information provided by the Council, the Commission had significant concerns that the outcomes for PSAs did not match the Commission’s expectations about the pay and grading of PSA jobs and about whether the process and practices adopted by the Council met the requirements of the Equal Pay Act. Despite a full explanation of the reasons for these concerns the Council response to the Commission is that it is satisfied with its pay and job evaluation system and PSAs’ pay.

The final reports and recommendations from the EOC Valuable Assets investigation into the role and status of classroom assistants can be found on the archived EOC website http://83.137.212.42/sitearchive/eoc/Default84bc.html?page=20347

The Single Status Agreement is the collective agreement reached on 21 June 1999, by the Scottish Joint Council for Local Government Employees.  In the Agreement, the employers and trade unions agreed to bring together the Administrative, Professional, Technical and Clerical (APT&C) and Manual Workers pay and grading structures into one single system for pay and conditions.  A key provision of the SSA was that the pay and grading of jobs must be “fair and non-discriminatory complying with equal pay legislation and associated codes of practice.”