Southwark Council reveals growing ‘ethnicity pay gap’ despite efforts to improve culture

Kit Heren (16 January, 2022)

The council does not legally have to publish this data but does so for 'openness and transparency'

8116The council's offices on Tooley Street

Southwark Council is paying its black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees considerably less than white staff on average – and the gap has grown, the council’s head of human resources has said.

For every £10 that a BAME member of council staff gets on average, a white employee gets £11.47 – an ‘ethnic minority pay gap’ of 14.68 per cent. This figure has grown slightly since last year.

Asked to explain the gap by Rye Lane councillor Peter Babudu at a council meeting on Wednesday evening (January 12), Southwark HR chief Melanie Medley agreed that it was “quite large and of concern”.

She went on: “The workforce don’t feel there have been enough opportunities for underrepresented groups to have access to career progression, to different roles, to acquire promotions when they choose to move on in their careers.

“What they’ve also reported to us… is that when they do attempt to apply for roles they have been unsuccessful.”

The council launched its Southwark Stands Together programme in 2020 to “tackle racial inequality” in the borough, including in its own ranks.

Ms Medley said at the overview and scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday that the council continues to try to close the ethnicity pay gap, including by helping BAME staff get into leadership and middle management positions, as well as “significant changes to recruitment practices”.

For comparison, Southwark’s ethnicity pay gap is lower than the Greater London Authority, where the figure stood at 18 per cent as of 2019. The Office for National Statistics said in the same year that London’s ethnicity pay gap as a whole was 23 per cent.

Unlike with the gender pay gap – which has gone down slightly from last year to 5.59 per cent – the council does not legally have to publish its ethnicity pay gap. Officers have published the figure for the purposes of “openness and transparency”.

The council’s ‘disability pay gap’ – another figure that does not legally have to be published – is 2.24 per cent.

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