THE gender pay gap has increased at Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) despite efforts to shrink the difference.

Having declined to 16.2 per cent in 2018, the difference between the mean normal pay for men and women at the authority is now up to 18.3 per cent.

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This is higher than the nationwide average of 17.9 per cent, according to a report produced for councillors.

Louise Timlin, data officer at the Reading branch of the Woman’s Equality Party, said: “The lack of progress in closing the gender pay gap, and in fact the movement in the opposite direction is disappointing though not surprising.

“They need to really understand why these differences persist so that they can develop an action plan to tackle the disparity.

“There are many best practices which could be put in place if the council are serious about wanting to reduce this gap.”

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BFC officers also worked out the gender pay gap excluding school staff pay, which means the pay gap decreases to 16.1 per cent on mean pay, and 12.6 per cent on median pay.

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Timothy Wheadon, Chief Executive at the council, said: “As an authority, we continuously analyse and look at best practice for ways to improve our recruitment and retention strategy.

“We actively strive to attract the best candidates to our workforce, enabling us to deliver the highest standard of essential services for our residents.

“As with any statistics, it is important to understand them in the appropriate context and consider any other influencing factors. 

“These could include the use of contractors and agency staff, which won’t be taken into account in the statistics, or the general turnover of staff within our workforce. 

“These factors can make a true comparison with other organisations difficult to achieve.”

Councillors are set to discuss the figures at a meeting of the employment committee on Wednesday, December 18.