Taking from Peter to pay PRP

October 8, 1999

As Natalie Fenton says, the introduction of PRP would exacerbate the serious discrimination against women over pay most recently revealed by the Bett report.

But the Bett report itself recommends that elements of PRP (based on "merit and achievement") should be introduced to increase the "flexibility" of higher education employment practices.

The more discretionary it is, the more opaque any pay system will be, and the more vulnerable to distortions based on subjective assessment. A study by the Institute of Manpower Studies for the Equal Opportunities Commission has shown that managers rating employees tend to look at different attributes; men are expected to be intelligent, assertive and persuasive, women to be honest, dependable and logical.

By all means use merit and achievement in an open and objective way to promote deserving individuals. But PRP would reinforce hierarchies, discriminate against the worst paid groups and promote a culture of cronyism.

Laura Barker Librarian, geology library Imperial College

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