Council’s ethnicity pay gap continues to narrow but no analysis of data

Bedford Borough Hall

Bedford Borough Council’s ethnicity pay gap is continuing to narrow, despite a lack of any analysis of the data to understand or explain the change.

As part of its “commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace”, Bedford Borough Council has been voluntarily publishing its ethnicity pay gap since 2016.

The pay gap is calculated as the difference between the median hourly earnings of white or white British workers compared to other ethnic groups.

But while in the council’s latest report, all the staff shared their sex and age, eight per cent of staff did not give their ethnicity – which could affect any analysis of the pay gap the council carries out.

And an ethnicity pay gap does not necessarily show unequal pay for equal work – but could instead show how different ethnic groups are distributed across pay bands.

The median pay gap has fallen from 16.69 per cent in 2014/15 to 12 per cent in 2019/20.

The council was asked if this drop was due to proactive measures put in place to address the gap, or if it was due to an increase in higher-paid senior staff from minority backgrounds.

The council spokesperson said: “As it is not a statutory requirement to report on the ethnicity pay gap, we have not analysed the data to understand or explain these changes.”

The latest data (2019) from the Office of National Statistics latest data found that in England and Wales the median hourly pay gap was 2.3 per cent.

The council was asked to comment on the difference between the national figure and its own, but it did not respond at the time of press.

Unlike the gender pay gap, disclosure of the ethnicity pay gap within large organisations is not a legal requirement. A report published last year by CIPD found that only 13 of the 100 largest UK-listed employers had shared their ethnicity pay gaps.

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “We publish ethnicity pay data on our website because doing so is considered good practice.

“Similar to the gender pay gap, the figures for the mean and median ethnicity pay gaps are driven by the distribution of employees within the council.”

The CIPD, a professional body for HR and people development, believes that it is important for all large employers (+250 headcount) to publish their ethnicity pay figures to improve diversity and opportunity at work.

Charles Cotton, senior performance and reward adviser at CIPD, said: “While we welcome the move by employers to voluntarily report their ethnicity pay figures, we’d argue that organisations should be producing a narrative – which explains the figures – and action plan – the steps which will be taken to address disparities – as well.

“Publishing the figures on their own can be of limited use and may be a missed opportunity to improve transparency, accountability and understanding on this issue.

“Collecting ethnicity data can be sensitive, so employers need to get buy-in from staff and take the time to explain why they are asking for this information in advance.”

Bedford Borough Council’s annual workforce and gender pay gap reports can be found via the Transparency Page of its website.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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