Published: 16/07/2017 19:00 - Updated: 14/07/2017 12:12

Millions spent covering Highland Council equal pay claims but half still remain unsettled

Written byEmma Crichton

The council has come under fire for losing income.COMPENSATION worth millions of pounds is still being dished out for historic pay inequalities within Highland Council.

Almost 3000 claims have been made against the cash-strapped local authority by 899 people who say they were unfairly underpaid due to gender inequality.

But 1487 claims are still outstanding, the Inverness Courier can exclusively reveal.

The council is working to compensate the employees and has paid out £3.4 million so far for 1464 claims but new figures have revealed just £1.2 million has been set aside to pay for outstanding claims, despite the compensation paid costing almost three times this.

But the council refused to say why so little money has been set aside for the remaining claims, blaming a confidentiality clause.

A spokeswoman said: “Highland Council is currently engaged in settlement negotiations – these are confidential.

“The settlement depends on a number of factors specific to each claim, therefore no attempt at juxtaposition between separate claims should be attempted.

“The details of any settlement of these claims will be covered by a memorandum of understanding between the council and the claimants’ representatives.

“The memorandum of understanding will include a confidentiality clause preventing the council from disclosing information on the terms of settlement.”

Councillor Maxine Smith, leader of the opposition at the council, has been pushing the council administration to settle the claims and wants to see an end to the issue within six months.

“I am keeping a close eye on it and it seems to be making some headway, albeit slowly,” she said.

“I would hope by January 2018 to see all the backlog cleared. The administration should be signing it all off by then.

“These people have waited long enough.”

Last year it was reported that just 70 of the claimants had been compensated, despite almost 3000 claims being made between 2005 and 2013.

The local authority agreed a policy 10 years ago pledging to eliminate gender bias in its pay but is still dishing out money to employees who have been wronged in the past. No equal pay claims have been lodged since 2015, despite pay inequality continuing.

An audit into gender pay gaps within the council shows that, overall, men are still paid 7.2 per cent more than women and the gap widens to 23.8 per cent for part-time staff.

But the same report shows full-time female employees are paid 13.9 per cent more than their male counterparts.

This is an improvement on pay gaps since 2015 of 1.4 per cent for all employees, one per cent for full-time and two per cent for part-time.

The council previously blamed this on a greater availability of part-time work in lower pay grades.

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