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West Suffolk councils buck trend over gender pay gap

West Suffolk House. Picture: Mark Westley.
West Suffolk House. Picture: Mark Westley.

Councils in West Suffolk are bucking the national trend in terms of the gender pay gap with women on average earning more than men.

Women at St Edmundsbury Borough and Forest Heath District Councils earn 10.22 per cent more than men based on the median average.

Eleanor Rehahn
Eleanor Rehahn

Nationally, women earn 18.1 per cent less than men.

Data presented to councillors notes that 64.29 per cent of those at the lower end of the pay scale at the two councils are men, many of whom work in operations roles.

Public, private and voluntary sector organisations with 250 or more employees have to report on their gender pay gaps by April.

Suffolk Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality and women’s rights, welcomed the figures but warned against complacency.

Co-ordinator Eleanor Rehahn said: “What it reflects is that pay is very much about structures in the workplace and often those structures do disadvantage women.

“In a lot of workplaces, it’s the men who have risen through the ranks so that’s where the higher pay will be.”

She said although the councils buck the trend, it proves ‘it’s about the structure of the workplace which we have to tackle’.

“It’s great that this exception has happened but it doesn’t mean we should be complacent either,” Eleanor added. “There will be people who will take this and say ‘what’s the problem then’ but I would say in the majority of gender pay gap releases it’s more likely to be women who are disadvantaged.”

The figures have been collated in a report to the councils’ respective cabinets, which are due to meet on Tuesday.

Of the 557 employees, 50.81 per cent are men and 49.19 per cent are women.

In the lower middle pay band, 53.96 per cent are women and 46.04 per cent are men.

Of those in the upper middle quartile, 56.83 per cent are women and 43.17 per cent are men. In the upper pay band, 50.36 per cent are women and 49.64 per cent are men.

Cllrs Ian Houlder and Stephen Edwards, portfolio holders for resources and performance at St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath respectively, said: “This is good news and puts West Suffolk ahead of many public and private sector organisations in terms of the gender pay gap.

“It is important that we support our staff to achieve the best they can and part of that is making sure there is no pay gap.”

They added that they will not rest on their ‘laurels’ as ‘there are many things that can change the gap’.

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