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Ensuring equal pay cost council £4m

| Written by Hans J Marter

IMPLEMENTING equal pay conditions among Shetland Islands Council employees has cost the local authority almost £4 million over the last 12 years, an Accounts Commission report has revealed.

The Equal Pay in Scottish Councils report, published on Thursday, gives a detailed breakdown of the ongoing challenges faced by Scotland's 32 local authorities in harmonising the pay structures of different groups of council employees and eradicating historic inequalities.

The commission found that implementing the 1999 "single status" agreement was a costly and complex process, as the implementation deadline of 2004 was missed by 31 of 32 councils.

Across Scotland around £750 million has been spent on settling claims so far and nearly 27,000 cases are still outstanding. But by contrast, just one case out of a total of 237 claims received in Shetland over the last 12 years has still not been resolved.

The report says the SIC spent £2.4 million on compensation payments when implementing single status plus a further £1.5 million to settle equal pay claims relating to historic inequalities.

Accounts Commission member Pauline Weetman said equality and transparency needed to be embedded in local authorities' pay structures.

"It's critical that officers ensure that they're doing all they can to fulfil their duties in relation to equal pay and publicly report this work, and that elected members continue to scrutinise and challenge their progress," she said.

Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell, who wasn't a councillor during the implementation phase of single status, added: "This has clearly been a complicated issue for all Scotland's local authorities to deal with.

"Fairness is at the heart of what this council does as an employer; we are committed to eliminating any bias around gender, disability or race, and to the principle of equal pay.

"We're also committed to dealing with any individual employee's issues which arise in this area."

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