Essex University gives female staff one-off pay rises in order to close gender pay gap

The university has been commended by union members for what is believed to be the first direct action of its kind to address gender pay disparity

Rachael Pells
Friday 03 June 2016 11:50 BST
Female staff in higher education earn an average of more than £6,000 less than their male counterparts
Female staff in higher education earn an average of more than £6,000 less than their male counterparts (Christopher Futcher)

Female professors at the University of Essex will be awarded a one-off salary hike, the institution has announced, in an attempt to eradicate the gender pay gap.

In what is believed to be a sector first, the university will move female professors up three newly created pay levels, effectively raising their average salaries to the same as their male counterparts.

Essex vice-chancellor Anthony Forster said that the move was motivated by “impatience” at the industry-wide problem, with external policies “failing to close the pay gap quickly enough”.

Mr Forster said: “Treating our staff with equal respect and dignity is at the very core of our values as a diverse and inclusive community.

“This decision ensures we reward people in a fair way, based upon their contribution to our community, regardless of their personal characteristics.”

In a statement, the university said female professors were to benefit specifically since no significant pay gaps had been identified in other staff groups.

The decision comes as newly released figures highlight persistent salary disputes between genders across the country. Analysis of industry pay levels by Times Higher Education shows that women on full-time academic contracts in the UK are paid around 11 per cent less than their male peers.

University and College Union (UCU) General Secretary Sally Hunt said Essex University “must be congratulated for taking a stand and publically addressing the problem”.

“Closing the gender pay gap is a key part of our current battle for fair pay in higher education,” she said. “It is disgraceful that we are still seeing such shameful levels of pay inequality 50 years after the Equal Pay Act came into force.”

According to Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) figures, Essex’s pay gap currently stands at 3.1 per cent - an average difference of £2,439 which the vice-chancellor says will be dissolved by October this year.

The current difference in pay is slight in comparison to other UK institutions however; King’s College London holds the biggest pay gap of any large university, with women paid £10,061 (17.7 per cent) less than men when all academic staff are taken into account.

Queen’s University in Belfast had the largest pay gap for its professors according to HESA data, with female chairs paid £11,257 less on average then male ones, a difference of 14 per cent.

The gender pay gap across all higher education equates to a shortfall of £6,103 per year for each female academic, according to UCU statistics.

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