Gender pay gap: Eight in 10 UK companies pay men more than women

Little progress made in discrepancy between men’s and women’s pay since last year, analysis suggests 

Emma Snaith,Ben Chapman
Friday 05 April 2019 07:05 BST
The gender pay gap explained

The gender pay gap has widened in favour of men at “nearly half” of the UK’s largest companies and public sector bodies over the past year, according to analysis of new government figures.

Almost eight in 10 companies still pay men more than women with more than a quarter paying female employees up to 20 per cent less.

Overall there was no significant improvement in the gender pay gap since the previous year with the gap shrinking slightly from 9.7 per cent to 9.6 per cent.

All organisations with more than 250 employees have to publish their gender pay gap figures. The deadline for the public sector was 31 March, while charities and companies had until midnight on 4 April to file.

Of the 10,444 companies that had filed by the deadline, 8,124 (78 per cent) paid male employees more than female staff based on median hourly pay.

Just 1,425 (15 per cent) paid female employees more than male staff. And 900 companies (9 per cent) reported no difference in pay between male and female employees.

Almost 3,000 companies (27 per cent) paid women over 20 per cent less than men based on median hourly pay. Just 118 companies (1.1 per cent) paid women over 20 per cent more than men.

And the gender pay gap has widened in favour of men in nearly half of companies over the past year, according to analysis by the BBC.

Of the firms that had filed comparison data before the deadline, 45 per cent reported wider pay gaps in favour of men than last year. Nearly a quarter favoured women and the rest reported no difference, according to the BBC.

The median pay gap is calculated by comparing the difference in pay between the middle-ranking female employee and middle-ranking male employee in the same companies.

It differs from equal pay, which means that women and men carrying out jobs of equal value must be paid the same. Equal pay has been a legal requirement for almost 50 years.

Among the worst offenders was EasyJet which reported a gap of 47.9 per cent, up from 45.5 per cent last year, an increase the airline put down to the recruitment of more female cabin crew over the last year.

Several banks again revealed some of the largest gaps. Barclays Bank reported a 44.1 per cent pay gap while Lloyds Bank’s was 41.7 per cent, falling to 32.8 per cent across the whole Lloyds group.

Kwikfit saw a swing of nearly 30 per cent towards higher pay for male employees. While last year the gap was 15.2 per cent in favour of women, this year the average man earned 14 per cent more than the average woman.

The car servicing and repair company blamed this change on a number of senior staff leaving their jobs.

A number of women’s fashion companies also filed large gaps, including Sweaty Betty, which reported a 66.6 per cent pay gap in favour of male employees. The company said that the low numbers of men working at the business has skewed its figures.

Karen Millen reported a 53 per cent pay gap in favour of men, an increase of four per cent since last year.

The way the government requires companies to report the gender pay gap has attracted criticism because only a summary of the data has to be published, meaning it cannot be independently scrutinised.

Around 9 per cent of companies have reported they have a zero gender pay gap, a proportion which statisticians have said is suspiciously large.

Sam Smethers, chief executive at The Fawcett Society, said it was “disappointing but not surprising” that a large number of employers had failed to close the gap between men’s and women’s pay.

“The regulations are not tough enough,” Ms Smethers said. “It’s time for action plans not excuses.

“Employers need to set out a five year strategy for how they will close their gender pay gaps, monitoring progress and results.

“The government needs to require employers to publish action plans that we can hold them accountable to, with meaningful sanctions in place for those who do not comply.”

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, agreed that big employers are “not doing enough to tackle the root causes of pay inequality” and urged the government to increase pressure on these companies to address this disparity.

She said: “Companies shouldn’t just be made to publish their gender pay gaps, they should be legally required to explain how they’ll close them. And bosses who flout the law should be fined.

“We can’t allow another generation of women to spend their whole working lives waiting to be paid the same as men.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said businesses cannot close the gap by themselves, adding: “Many of the causes lie outside the workplace including a lack of affordable, high-quality childcare and better careers advice.

“Companies and government working together remains the best way to deliver the long-term, lasting change that’s needed.”

Penny Mordaunt, minister for women and equalities, said: “Actions to tackle the gender pay gap are good for business. That’s why we have produced support to help employers close their gaps.

“We recognise that in order to close the gap entirely we still need a much wider cultural change; that is why we have introduced a range of initiatives to tackle the drivers of the gap, including shared parental leave and spending around £6bn on childcare support.”

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“Over the past year, the Government Equalities Office [GEO] has been working with employers in a number of sectors to encourage them to put in place detailed and effective action plans to reduce their pay gap.”

This is the second year that the GEO has collected pay gap data for companies with over 250 employees.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said it would take enforcement action against all firms that missed this year’s deadline.

It is thought that a quarter of companies filed their gender pay gap figures in the last 36 hours before the deadline, according to the BBC.

The latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics show that the median gender pay gap is 17.9 per cent across all companies, including those with fewer than 250 employees.

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