By Sarah Townsend
University College London Doha campus denies it was a 'deliberate policy'; has moved to compensate women affected
University College London (UCL) has admitted female staff at its Qatar campus were financially discriminated against, but has denied it was a “deliberate policy” and has moved to compensate the women affected.
According to documents obtained by The Times under the UK’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, UCL Qatar director Thilo Rehren slammed his university’s practice of paying female staff less housing allowance than their male counterparts as “morally and legally not acceptable”.
Internal emails recovered and sent to The Times under FOI show that Rehren wrote in an email to Andrew Smith, UCL’s vice provost for student affairs, last year: “Current practice (which is informed by Qatari norms) treats our employees materially different depending on their gender, which is morally and legally not acceptable, leads to serious dissatisfaction at work, and poses a risk for staff retention.”
In one case, reported The Times, a married male worker was given a housing allowance of £3,568 ($5,449) and a married female colleague was given £624, even though they were only one pay grade apart.
One figure extracted from the emails suggested the compensation owed by UCL to one member of staff was £125,000 and the total figure was more than £500,000 – although further discussions lowered the total to £124,000, the newspaper said.
The discussion at UCL Qatar was prompted by a complaint from one female member of staff that the university’s remuneration policy left married women substantially worse off than their male peers.
In one of the emails cited in the press report, a human resources consultant working for the university admitted it was “clearly discriminatory in UK employment terms” and “a clear breach of both UCL’s and the UCL Qatar equal opportunities statements.”
The emails also revealed that the university considered refusing to give full compensation to staff that had already left. The report claimed one human resources policy officer wrote: “We must focus on a solution which will be acceptable to staff which will obviously be less than [the current estimate].”
“I always thought that UCL opening a campus in Doha was strange given Qatar’s appalling record on equality and diversity and workers’ rights. The only excuse could be that UCL would behave as an exemplary employer," one anonymous academic was quoted as saying. “Now it seems that UCL staff based in Doha have been remunerated differently depending on their gender.”
However, a UCL spokesperson told Arabian Business in a statement that the policy had been adjusted and backdated payments had been made to female staff to correct the difference.
The spokesperson clarified that this means female staff are now paid the same as male staff as standard policy.
The statement said: “There was never any deliberate intention on UCL’s part to apply a discriminatory policy to its staff in Qatar, and there is nothing in any of the papers relevant to this case to suggest that that was the case.
“Our presence in Qatar required complex negotiation and unfortunately this issue was not picked up at the time. Clearly, this was never intended as an intentional policy and as soon as the anomaly came to light we took steps to rectify it.
“The policy change was backdated so that staff were not disadvantaged [and] the papers released indicated UCL leadership dealt with the issue as soon as it was brought to their attention.”
Rehren did not respond to requests for comment.
I just have one question for this anonymous academic; why is he or she still in Qatar and more importantly if he or she is a person of integrity or sound morals why talking so badly about your place of work and country of living and you still there.
It is obvious that the academic level you reached did not teach you the saying " Don't spit in the plate you eat fromâ€
If you don't like it leave it but don't hide yourself and think you can make a difference.
interesting to note that you obviously don't appreciate the importance of freedom of speech. Appreciate the novel advice on leaving if you don't like it. Must try not to forget that.