International mechanisms to revalue women's work: research

The report reviews different approaches to redress the undervaluation of women’s work and assesses their applicability to the Scottish employment context. The report finds that undervaluation of women’s work is a driver of the gender pay gap and makes recommendations to alleviate this disparity.

Appendix 1 – Case Study 11 – UK: Maintaining Single Status and Equal Pay in Local Government

The UK GPG was 15.5 % in 2020[123] and collective bargaining coverge 26.9% in 2019[124]. This case study examines a collective bargaining initiative within the National Joint Council for Local Government Services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (NJC). The objective was to increase the lowest rates of pay (and thereby pay throughout the pay structure), ‘equality proof’ the NJC Job Evaluation Scheme (NJCJES), restore ‘equal value’ differentials established through use of the NJCJES and further narrow the GPG. In doing so, both sides of the NJC hoped to improve and ‘future proof’ the NJCJES and maintain equal pay for work of equal value within local government and associated employers.


The NJC covers 1.6 million employees across councils and schools in England and Wales and in Education Boards in Northern Ireland. Most large academy chains and many ‘arms-length’ employers also use it. Three-quarters (76%) of NJC employees are women and 60% work part-time (less than 37 hours a week). The NJC ‘Single Status’ agreement (NJCSSA) was reached after lengthy negotiations in 1997. The agreement initially also applied to Scotland, which was part of the NJC and had a Scottish sub-committee of it. However, a unilateral decision was taken by the Scottish trade unions and employers to leave the NJC and a Scottish Joint Council (SJC) and separate Single Status agreement was reached in 1999. An SJCJES was also developed, which is now in its third iteration following changes to ensure equal value. The NJCSSA aimed to harmonise working conditions across manual and white collar jobs within a single collective agreement and establish a pay and grading system that complied with the Equal Pay Act and delivered ‘equal pay for work of equal value’.

It was important to have one common JES and pay system for the harmonised workforce. The Employers Side of the NJC would not agree to ‘national’ grades, so each employer – over 400 councils and many schools – had to evaluate jobs and establish a local pay structure and there was no agreed deadline for implementation. Unfortunately, unlike with the parallel – and slightly later – Agenda for Change scheme in the NHS, the Government would not provide extra funding for councils to introduce the new pay and grading system and establish equal pay, at a time when ‘efficiency reviews’ were impacting on budgets. This led to widespread removal of bonus schemes and ‘levelling down’ of men’s pay, rather than ‘levelling up’ of women’s pay and mass litigation by the trade unions and ‘no win, no fee’ lawyers. This is estimated to have cost NJC councils over £3 billion in legal fees and settlements[125]. Since 2010, almost 60% of central Government funding for local government in England has been cut.

Despite low NJC pay settlements, two-thirds of councils had individually and unilaterally implemented the independent Foundation Living Wage (FLW) by 2018 – a higher level of pay for the lowest-paid workers than NJC pay. This distorted job evaluated differentials, caused ‘bunching’ of workers on the lower pay points and undermined supervisory relativities.

Negotiations on the 2018–20 NJC followed years of below-inflation pay increases, a four-year pay freeze from 2009–12 and then a 1% pay ‘cap’. These had left local government and allied workers earning less than those in equivalent posts in the NHS, the Police and in the Civil Service, while NJC conditions such as sick pay, holiday pay and car allowances have been cut in over 60% of councils.


The 2018–20 NJC agreement established a universal rate of pay of £9 per hour in 2018 as the bottom pay point – almost equal to the FLW. It also re-structured the pay spine and equalised gaps between pay points up to scale point 20. This ensured that differentials reflecting equal pay for work of equal value can be maintained into the future and increments on the pay spine – at least up to the middle – are equal. (The Employers Side would not agree to equalisation of pay gaps higher up the spine for cost reasons, but agreed that it should be addressed in future negotiations). As a result the GPG in local government narrowed from 5.7% to 2.3% from the point of implementation and within a year[126].


The agreement has applicability to Scottish local and national governments and the SJC – as well as other public sector employers with equal value proofed job evaluation schemes and pay structures. It is an example of the importance of ‘maintenance’ of the JES and pay and grading structure to maintain equal value differentials and equal progression, combined with a significant pay increase for the lowest paid. Action of this kind is needed at regular intervals to ensure that JE schemes and pay structures remain fit for purpose[127].



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