Headlines: January 3rd, 2008

No-win-no-fee lawyers have been accused of hampering councils’ efforts to achieve equal pay rates within their workforces. New research from the Local Government Employers shows that half of authorities have completed equal pay reviews, but that the ability of councils to do so is being hindered.

A survey of 79 local authorities found that school staff acccounted for almost a third of equal pay costs and made up as much as three quarters in the most extreme cases. The cost of reviews is estimated at 2.8 billion pounds with total backpay put at a billion pounds, ongoing costs at 1.5 billion and protection at 0.4 billion pounds.

Jan Parkinson, the Managing Director of the Local Government Employers, said councils wanted equal pay within their workforces and were working hard to achieve it. Providing a fair settlement on equal pay was an urgent issue for local authorities who had to act in the best interests of local tax payers as well as all their staff.

”Councils have been hamstrung in their ability to deliver on equal pay agreements as no-win no-fee lawyers have been holding up the process for many years. No win-no fee lawyers have not served any useful purpose and instead have clogged up the tribunal system causing severe delays to claims and cost taxpayers more money in bureaucracy,” she said.

She added that local government was paying the price in some ways for being open about the equal pay problem and declaring that it would do something about it. “There are similar problems in the NHS and civil service, where the decision has been made to fight cases all the way in tribunals rather than try and reach agreement as we are doing. The situation in the private sector is completely hidden as they have no requirement to carry out pay assessments,” Jan Parkinson said.