Ask the panel

June 22, 2007

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‘A colleague in my department has roughly the same duties as me but is paid more. What is the best way to remove this inequity?’  

* A spokesman for the University and College Union says: “The first question is whether your university has completed the role analysis or job evaluation process that accompanies the implementation of the Framework Agreement. The outcome of this is meant to be that staff are assigned to the correct grade for their duties and responsibilities to ensure equal pay for work of equal value.

“If your university has implemented the Framework Agreement and you feel that you have been incorrectly graded, contact your local UCU representative who should be able to advise you on appealing against your grading, and let you know if employees with similar jobs to yours have also been questionably graded. But note that these processes will focus on whether you are correctly graded, not on whether your colleague is correctly graded.

“The second question is whether you have a potential equal pay claim against your employer, although this is conditional on your colleague being of a different gender.

“If you think you might have a claim, speak to your union representative, who will advise you on submitting a questionnaire to obtain information from your employer about pay and grading. The employer is obliged to provide this information, which should help you to evaluate whether the pay differential with your colleague is justifiable.

“Further information on this issue is also available from the Equal Opportunities Commission ( www.eoc.org.uk ).

“It is also worth noting that under the new Gender Equality Duty, universities in their role as employers are obliged to take active measures to ensure gender equality in the institution. If your employer is not taking action that includes examining potential pay inequalities, then it is questionable whether it is complying with its statutory duties.” 

* A pro vice-chancellor says: “The question is how does the writer know about the colleague’s salary? Is this speculation? The issue is confidentiality of salaries, which are not open and public, as I understand they are in the US.

“Also, who is judging whether the two colleagues are doing the same work? I note the writer says ‘roughly’, which could mean anything.

“We have to accept that pay differences in the sector are a fact of life and likely to increase as merit pay and performance monitoring develop.

“What is needed is transparent systems so that people know where they are, and a proper procedure for appealing against what someone may see as inequity.”

This advice panel includes the University and College Union, the Univer­sities and Colleges Employers Association, the Equality Challenge Unit and Rachel Flecker, an academic who sits on Bristol University’s contract research working party. Send questions to ­advicepanel@thes.co.uk

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