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7 September 2017, 07:16
More than a decade after the deadline for equal pay implementation in councils across Scotland a third of claims are still outstanding, a local government watchdog has found.
The Accounts Commission said around £750 million has been spent settling claims since 2004 and nearly 27,000 were still live.
In a study of how councils implemented an agreement brought in in 1999 to harmonise pay for employees and address historic inequalities, the commission found all but one of the 32 local authorities missed the 2004 deadline.
It took 11 years - twice as long as planned - for all councils to implement the agreement, which was finally completed in 2010.
The commission found progress was slowed by funding problems as councils received no extra money for the new pay scheme and some approaches taken to save costs and avoid industrial action, such as protecting pay and bonuses for some roles, were found to be discriminatory.
The report states: "Ultimately the measures councils adopted kept men's salaries higher than women performing equivalent roles."
The commission also found a "lack of collective national leadership to overcome the challenges and address equal pay issues in a timely way".
Between 2004 and September 30, 2016, some 70,453 equal pay claims were lodged against councils and payouts, including compensation agreements and legal fees, totalled around £750 million.
At the end of September last year 26,912 equal pay claims lodged with the Employment Tribunal Service remained live - around a third of all claims since 2004.
Of these, nine out ten are from women and thousands have been live for more than a decade.
North Ayrshire has the most claims still live, at more than 95%, followed by East Dunbartonshire and Falkirk at around 90% and 80% respectively, compared to the national average of 37.4%
The commission stressed that workers could potentially still make new claims against councils.
The number of claims lodged against councils and the cost of payouts varied, which the commission said could be due to size, the level of activity of 'no-win no-fee' legal firms and approaches to handling equal pay issues.
Glasgow City Council had the highest number of claims at 22,730, followed by North Lanarkshire on 10,480 and Edinburgh on 6,163 while Orkney had the lowest at 14.
North Lanarkshire paid out the most at £129.9 million, followed by Glasgow at £91.4 million and Edinburgh at £87.5 million while Orkney was lowest at £1.8 million.
Commission member Pauline Weetman said: "Equal pay is both an incredibly important issue and a legal duty for Scotland's councils to eliminate decades of inequality. However, implementation of equal pay has been a substantial challenge for local government.
"Councils need to be confident that pay equality is embedded in how they operate. It's critical that officers ensure that they're doing all they can to fulfil their duties in relation to equal pay and publicly report this work, and that elected members continue to scrutinise and challenge their progress."