Equality audit is a wakeup call to councils and government

UNISON response to the Account Commission’s report: Equal Pay in Scottish Councils, published by Audit Scotland:

The Account Commission’s analysis of equal pay in Scottish local government is an urgent wakeup call to councils, councillors and the Scottish government.

The in-depth audit of 18 years negotiation and litigation on equal pay in Scottish councils contains shocking findings:

  • Over 70,000 legal claims have been lodged against councils
  • 27,000 claims remain unresolved
  • The cost to date is £750m and this figure will rise significantly as remaining claims are resolved
  • Despite this massive technical exercise, and vast expense, the Account Commission are unable to report whether the gender pay gap in local government has been narrowed or closed

Peter Hunter, UNISON Scotland Regional manager said, “UNISON is driving the campaign for pay equality in councils and the good news is that, by working closely with employers, we now have a revised scheme for improved auditing of pay systems. Although the majority of claims have now been resolved, no one should overlook the fact that the £750m compensation paid to council workers is a massive boost to low paid and undervalued staff. And we should remember it is the price to women of the gender pay gap. So it is unacceptable that many councils are still unable to say whether or not that pay gap has now been closed. Pay gap reporting is a legal duty – so more work is required.

“If council’s can’t guarantee that pay equality is in place, the Account Commission’s findings must still be a wakeup call for any council that hasn’t settled individual claims or applied the 2016 pay review tool. Only one-in-five councils regularly report to elected members on progress towards pay equality, and in too many areas pay discrimination has been allowed to continue as compensation costs spiral. There is only one response to discrimination of whatever form – constant vigilance with a commitment to do the right thing. This study demonstrates the cost of delay and der­eliction of duty.

“If this report compels those remaining councils to resolve outstanding claims and make vigilant use of the 2016 pay review tool, Account Commission will have played a vital role”


  • To date UNISON has run 23,000 equal pay claims across Scotland; we have won £116 million in compensation; we vetoed ¾ of all Scottish councils new pay systems on the grounds they were discriminatory, we led the litigation against Glasgow City Council which effects 9,000 women in the city
  • www.audit-scotland.gov.uk  for full report.

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