Tue 11 Apr 2023

Back where we started with gender pay gap

Early analysis of gender pay gap figures shows the gap to be at the same level as 2017/18.  

According to early analysis of this year's gender pay gap figures (which for private companies looks at pay levels as at 5 April 2022) the median gender pay gap is 9.4%, the same as it was in 2017/18 when the requirement for larger companies to report gender pay gap figures first became mandatory.  The median gap looks at the difference between the pay of the middle-ranking woman and the middle-ranking man.  It is not reflective of unequal pay for doing the same job, rather it shows that men tend to dominate in higher paid roles while more women remain in lower level and lower paid jobs. 

We have, of course, been through a pandemic since the requirement to report gender pay gap figures became mandatory.  This resulted in the 2019/20 reporting requirement being suspended and the 2020/21 requirement being postponed until October 2021.  The 20/21 and 21/22 figures, that related to snapshot dates of 5 April 2020 and 5 April 2021, were also both impacted by furlough (furloughed staff were not included in the reporting).  Government data on furlough showed it detrimentally impacted more women than men with 133,000 more women being furloughed during the first lockdown.  These factors mean that recent years' figures are not a completely reliable comparator for either pre-pandemic or post-pandemic statistics. 

However, even before the pandemic hit, the gender pay gap figure had initially been on an upward trajectory, starting at 9.4% and increasing to 9.7% in the second reporting year.  This year's figures do at least show a return to 9.4% from a larger gap, but finding we are back where we started is disappointing, particularly when put in the context of some of the other data.  This includes that, while some companies do pay women more than men, the vast majority (around 80%) pay men more.  Sector wise, some of the worst offenders show little sign of improvement - banking and finance have a 22% pay gap, just 0.5% better than it was five years ago.  Construction also shows a gender pay gap of 22% and education - a sector that employs large numbers of women - has seen its gender pay gap widen by 0.9% to 20.4%.

Figures over the next few years will provide us with a clearer idea of how effective the reporting requirement is in tackling the gender pay gap.  If it remains at similar levels, then reporting will have done nothing more than shine a light on an annual basis on an issue that we already knew existed.  Reporting it and tackling it are most certainly not the same thing.

The gender pay gap statistics are a snapshot, they do not show what companies are doing to address the problem.  Whether or not an employer publishes a supporting narrative or action plan alongside their gender pay gap statistics remains voluntary.  While many employers choose to provide this information, making these elements compulsory could be a positive step to encourage all those required to report to also actively take steps to address the issue. 

You can find out the gender pay gap of your business/employer here.

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