13 Nov 2008

They lecture the rest of us on the evils of discrimination in the workplace. But those in charge of the Equality and Human Rights Commission don't seem to be following their own advice. 

Female staff at the superquango are paid less than the men, it was revealed yesterday. The gap between the average pay of the sexes runs at more than 15 per cent, figures given to MPs showed. 

They mean that a typical female employee of the £70million-a-year equality body gets £85 a week less than a typical male worker. 

The organisation also pays its white staff more than blacks, by a margin of more than 6 per cent, and able-bodied employees more than disabled workers. 

The commission, headed by Labour activist Trevor Phillips, has been scathing about the shortcomings of other employers when it comes to women's pay. 

In September it published a report accusing bosses of being wedded to old-fashioned ways of working that are unfair to women. 

The pay gap between men and women in the workforce in general, in terms of average hourly earnings, is 17.2 per cent. 

It was this figure which led one of the commission's governors, Margaret Prosser, to declare that full-time women workers 'are cheated of £330,000 over the course of their lifetime'. 

Equalities minister Maria Eagle told MPs that the commission's salary figures covered the average of total earnings and did not take into account the effects of part-time working. 

She said no figures for hourly rates of pay were available because the commission was still 'harmonising' pay rates inherited from the equality quangos it took over last year. 

She said: 'These new rates have now been agreed with trade unions and staff have been consulted. It is expected that these new arrangements will be implemented shortly.' 

The commission, which started work in October last year, employed 518 staff this spring. It pays its male employees an average of £33,366.96. 

The average salary for its women staff is £28,920.48, an amount £4,446.48 or 15.4 per cent lower. 

The figures compare with average pay of £23,750 for all workers, men and women, in the economy as a whole. 

Black and ethnic minority staff at the commission average £29,035.12, or 6.1 per cent below the £30,803.91 average paid to white employees. Disabled staff get an average of £29,784.07, which is 2.7 per cent below the £30,598.81 average paid to able-bodied employees. 

The figures provoked outrage among critics of the commission. Tory MP Philip Davies, whose parliamentary question drew the details from ministers, said: 'Given that this organisation is always banging on about the faults of employers, it is astonishing to find that it is paying men more than women. 

'To lecture everybody else about doing something they can't do themselves is hypocrisy beyond belief.' 

He added: 'Since their top man is black, there must be real discrepancies lower down in the organisation for them to end up paying blacks less than whites.' 

Ruth Lea, economic adviser to the Arbuthnot Banking Group, said: 'This is a reality check. If the commission is paying its male staff more on average than it pays to its female staff, it must think they are worth more on average. It is one of life's little ironies.' 

SOURCE: Daily Mail

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