Council to publish yearly ethnicity pay gap as it commits to do more to tackle workplace inequality

The council has passed a motion to improve equality in the workplace, including a pledge to publish an ethnicity pay gap and to employ more black apprentices.

All 46 Reading councillors backed the motion at last week’s full council meeting.

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Councillor Sophia James, who was Reading’s first black female councillor, said: “We want to make it clear our community where we stand.

“This motion highlights the stark inequalities in the local government workforce. These are inequalities which exist across leadership positions in our society.

“This motion commits to Reading as an anti-racist authority. This is a frank admission that our council cannot be the best it could be without further diversification of the workforce.”

The motion commits the council to take action, including:

  • Publishing an Ethnicity Pay Gap report annually and lobby Government to make this mandatory for all organisations
  • Developing an apprenticeship scheme to increase the number of black employees across the council in a range of roles
  • Improving the diversity of the council’s senior leadership
  • Identifying a lead officer at executive director level to champion equalities work across the borough
  • Sign up to charters committing to equality

An ethnicity pay gap is the difference between average hourly pay rates for black, Asian and minority ethic (BAME) employees compared to white colleagues.

The motion was proposed by councillor Liam Challenger, who said: “The black, Asian, and minority ethnic population in the south east stands at 10 per cent but only 3.3 per cent of local government staff are BAME, with a tiny minority holding senior roles.

“This motion commits us to improving our numbers of staff that identify as black, not just at entry-level roles but across every layer of RBC to ensure we reflect the people we serve.”

Councillor Adele Barnett-Ward, lead member for Neighbourhoods and Communities, added: “We need to do more, and we need to really scrutinise.

“We need to make sure our workforce reflects the town and that we have the best of what Reading has to offer working for the people of reading. We only do that by being inclusive.”

Leaders of opposition groups also expressed their support for the motion, although some were critical of the council’s actions so far.

Conservative councillor Raj Singh criticised the council for not having yet achieved the ‘excellent’ rating in Local Government Equality Framework peer challenges, saying it is required to meet under the equality act, and said there should be a timeline for progress to be made.

While Green councillor Brenda McGonigle said the council had “let its promises of 2000 and 2010 drift” and needs to ensure the Caribbean and diaspora community has a home in the heart of Reading.

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Lib Dem councillor Ricky Duveen added: “It is plain to see that, although as a society we believe in equal opportunities, we have a long way to go before this ideal is achieved in practice.

“BAME are unrepresented in many public bodies and understandably impatient for more representation.”

Responding to comments from Cllr Singh, Cllr James said: “I don’t believe the party that oversaw the Windrush scandal can be lecturing anyone on the urgency of tackling racism.”