How women lose out in performance pay regime

27th February 2015 at 00:00
Female teachers twice as likely to take a salary cut in a new job

Female teachers are being disproportionately hit by the introduction of a controversial system of performance pay, new figures suggest.

Women are twice as likely as their male colleagues to take a pay cut when they move school, according to a survey of 800 teachers. And just four in 10 female staff received an annual pay rise in September, compared with six in 10 of their male counterparts, the poll by the ATL teaching union reveals.

Under the radical pay reforms, which came into effect last year, each school is responsible for setting its own policy to link teachers' salaries with performance.

The government brought in the change to prevent automatic progression up the main pay scale. Ministers also signalled an end to "pay portability", meaning schools are no longer required to match the previous salaries of teachers they hire.

As reported by TES last month, a separate teaching union survey has revealed that more than a quarter of teachers were denied an increase in the first pay review under the new system (News, 23 January). Ethnic minority teachers and those working in primary schools were the most likely to miss out, the research by the NUT union shows.

According to the ATL survey, 22.4 per cent of the polled female teachers who started work at a new school in September took a pay cut, compared with just 10 per cent of men. Conversely, 40 per cent of male teachers received a higher salary than that on offer at their previous school, while only 12.1 per cent of women were given a higher salary.

Female teachers remaining at the same school were also hit hard, according to the research: just 37.7 per cent of eligible women progressed up the pay scale, compared with 53.7 per cent of men.

In addition, the survey finds that just 39.3 per cent of female teachers were awarded the 1 per cent cost-of-living increase, while 59.8 per cent of men received the pay rise.

Simon Stokes, the ATL's policy lead for pay, conditions and pensions, told TES that the findings were a cause for serious concern.

"There's a gender pay gap in the broader economy, where women don't do as well at competing for higher salaries as men," he said. "We've had a fair, transparent and genderneutral system of pay [for teachers], but [schools] are now replicating what's happening in the rest of the economy."

A spokesman said that the Department for Education had seen "no evidence" that female teachers were being disproportionately affected by the changes, and stressed that any form of pay discrimination was unlawful.

"The gender pay gap is at its lowest level on record; more women are employed than ever before, and for the first time women under 40 working full-time now earn more than men.

"But we are clear more must be done. That is why we have changed the law so any employer who breaks the rules on equal pay must publish an audit of their pay structures."

`Ask for more'

Kim Knappett, a science teacher at Forest Hill School in London and a union representative, is aware of a number of female teachers in other schools across the city who have been denied a pay rise since September.

"I'm working with about a dozen teachers who, since the reforms, have not got pay progression," the ATL vice-president says. "They are all women."

Several of the cases relate to teachers who have taken maternity leave or work part-time, she adds.

"Part time jobs can be hard to find and I think women feel grateful to get them, so are less likely to negotiate [about pay]. I think men are being more assertive. We need to get out there and tell people to ask for more."

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