RHUL in gender pay gap tribunal

On 3rd November the Employment Tribunal in Reading opened its doors to hear a case involving Royal Holloway. Professor Liz Schafer, an expert in Shakespeare in Production and Australian Theatre, is claiming that, compared to her male colleagues, she has been consistently under-rewarded for her research and teaching works.

Schafer is being represented by the University and College Union (UCU) who, in their recent press statement, called this a case that ‘exposes the scandalous gender pay gap across higher education’. They will contend that this salary discrepancy is as a result of ‘retention payments’ made to male colleagues when it was learnt that they had received or were considering positions in other universities. The UCU further contends that these payments ‘were not subject to any transparent scrutiny and appear to have favoured men over women’ and that ‘the tribunal will examine whether such offers could justify higher pay.’

It can be seen that the gender pay gap is still very much evident in the workplace and shockingly so in higher education institutions. Research by the National Office of Statistics saw that the gender pay gap had narrowed from 12.6% in 2008 to 12.2% in 2009, with widest gaps being seen in the skilled trades. However, research by the Higher Education Statistics Agency revealed that the gap had actually widened in higher education institutions, with male professors being paid on average 13.9% more than women in 2007/2008, rising from 13.7% in the previous year.

In evidence that will be submitted to the Tribunal, the UCU will state that figures show Royal Holloway as one of the worst culprits, its 10.6% pay gap being one of the highest in the country.

UCU’s General Secretary Sally Hunt said that this case will ‘lift the veil on the murky world of professorial pay and the scandalous gender pay gap in our universities’ and that ‘fair, open and transparent recruitment and promotion procedures are in everyone’s interest, not just women’s.’

Royal Holloway has been endeavouring to promote equality and transparency in all matters of employment in their institution, which can be seen through the recent introduction of Professorial Banding this year. Prior to this RHUL had followed the model that the majority of universities still function under, which is that of salary banding for all employees only up to the level of professor, at which point there is no set wage structure. Instead, professors are subject to annual reviews to assess their progress and essentially pitch for a pay rise.

In Royal Holloway’s ‘Professorial Banding Guidelines’, which can be found online, the college have asserted this banding process should ‘contain no unfair bias … on grounds of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation’ and that ‘it is fully intended that the decision process regarding performance will … address inequalities based on gender, past agreements for retention purposes which are no longer defensible, and any other pay anomalies.’

The Tribunal is still ongoing; The Founder will report the results of the case as soon as a judgment is reached. Though we can now say we are one of the sixteen universities in England to have Professorial Banding, it remains to be seen whether we can say our university does not discriminate against our female professors.

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