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Oxford City Council reveals sharp shift in gender pay gap

Oxford City Council has today published its annual gender pay gap report. The report, based on the snapshot date of March 31st 2019, shows that the median gender pay gap is 12.1%.

This means that the midpoint in the range of hourly earnings for women is 12.1% lower than the respective midpoint for men. The median figure is typically favoured as a measure of the gender pay gap because, unlike the mean, it is not skewed by extreme cases. As a result, it is closer to the pay experiences of the typical man or woman. The mean gender pay gap is 10.2%.

These figures refer to basic pay, which does not include overtime or expenses, rather than bonuses. Reflecting remuneration relating to performance, the median gender bonus gap was 9.3%; the mean was 11.6%.

There was been a sharp increase in the gender pay gap since 2018. Indeed, in 2018 and 2017 the median gender pay gap was exactly 0%. The change reflects the absence from the 2019 report of ODS, formerly Oxford Direct Services. ODS is now a separate company from the City Council and reports its gender pay gap data independently, under the terms of the Equalities Act 2010. This wholly owned subsidiary of the Council includes parks maintenance, refuse and recycling, and construction.

Whereas ODS is overwhelmingly male at all levels of the organisation, the Council’s workforce is predominantly female. Men make up 88% of the workforce at ODS but only 42% at the Council. The absence of ODS figures from the data has caused a strong swing in the gender pay gap in favour of men, disrupting its previously egalitarian record. The waste industry, of which ODS is a part, is typically one of the best performers in gender pay gaps. In 2018, the median gap was 6.9% in favour of women.

In its report, the Council explains that “in broad terms, ODS has a large number of lower paid male staff which reduced both the mean and median basic pay figures when included in the combined pay data for male staff within the City Council and ODS in the last two gender pay reports.”

Councillor Nigel Chapman, Cabinet Member for Safer Communities and Customer Focused Services, echoed this sentiment:

“This year’s report reflects the change in the balance of the way women and men are employed within the City Council’s workforce after you have removed the ODS workforce data. We have strong policies to support flexible working, parental leave and career development, which are shown to support women’s career progress. We are actively addressing the barriers through a planned programme to support more women and BAME candidates to progress internally, and to attract more diverse external candidates.”

Councillor Chapman, whose term of office ends this May, also said that “(the report) also shows that women are still not reaching the highest levels of the organisation in equal numbers as men.” However, women earnt 49.4% of the salaries paid to the top quartile of earners at the Council, suggesting an equal award of senior salaries. This figure was 55.81% for the upper middle quartile and over 60% for the bottom quartiles, emphasising how women make up most of the lower salaried roles.

The figures reflect a pay structure more unbalanced than the national average but more equal than Oxford University. Nationally, the median full-time woman earn 8.9% less per hour than her male counterpart. The same gap at Oxford University has been 13.7% since 2018. Oxford Brookes reports a gross hourly figure, which includes basic and bonus pay, with a gap of 5.8% in 2018. Oxford Brookes is yet to publish its 2019 report.

Oxford City Council has also set out a plan to minimise its gender pay gap. The Council plans to develop:

  • training and organisational development initiatives to encourage and support greater levels of participation by female colleagues within higher graded roles in the Council
  • employment policy and enabling technologies that facilitate greater flexibility in the time, place and manner by which work is performed to enable staff to achieve an effective balance between work and their home commitments.
  • recruitment approaches and methods that promote the Council as an employer of choice and place to build a great career, with access to a range of flexible working arrangements

Whether this strategy will meet the challenge to close the gap presented by the new arrangement of Oxford City Council’s structure cannot be fairly determined at the present instance; proper judgment on that must be reserved, at least, until the next report.

Additional reporting from Leo Nasskau.