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InfoLawUpdate - Bradford Council told to disclose its employee grading criteria

Burnetts' information law solicitor Natalie Ruane discusses a case concerning Bradford Metropolitan District Council and employee grading criteria.

Towards the end of July, the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) ruled that Bradford Metropolitan District Council must disclose information on how it grades its employees' positions. A council assistant manager had requested full details of the council's decision to do so after her role had been re-graded and she disagreed with the decision.

The Council had initially refused to disclose the criteria it used to grade posts in reliance on section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000 by arguing likely prejudice to the Council’s commercial interests, but the Information Commissioner decided that the Council could not rely on that.

 In the Tribunal, the Council then tried relying on the exemption in section 36(2)(c) of FOIA (prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs). The council argued against disclosure in that it would:

Create the risk that future job applicants would use the information to obtain a higher grading by exaggerating their responsibilities.
Cause some staff to make applications for their roles to be re-graded, which would place a burden on the council's resources and so prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.
Not be in the public interest, since the information being requested had no widespread application or impact on the public, and publicising differences in pay may lead to a divide between staff members.

The Tribunal found that any possible prejudice was not sufficient to outweigh the public interest in disclosure. It decided that the first argument was likely to happen in any event and that due to the high number of roles being re-graded anyway, disclosure would not cause a significant extra burden. It was also persuaded by guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission that transparency is a key aspect of a non-discriminatory pay structure; and that rather than creating divisions, transparency would help remove them.

About the author

Natalie Ruane profile photo

Natalie Ruane

Natalie is a Partner and leads the Employment Law & HR team and specialises in education.

Published: Friday 8th August 2014
Categorised: Information Law

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