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Gender pay gap slow to close

Alison Steed

Alison Steed

It seemed like such a good idea when it was implemented, but like so many things, the reality has provided a disappointment that is most keenly felt by those affected.

I am talking about the requirement for companies to publish how big the gender pay gap is within their organisation.

The latest round of figures show that far from shaming hundreds of companies into reducing the separation between what they pay men and women, for many the disparity has grown.

The BBC has crunched the numbers and found that four-in-10 of the companies that have already reported their figures – and many have yet to – have seen the median gender pay gap grow, not close.

I would like to say this is shocking – and on one level it most certainly is – but it is actually what we have come to expect from ‘big business’.

The BBC points out that the median gender pay gap is the difference between what is paid to a middle-ranking man and a middle-ranking woman, rather than the difference in what is being paid to each sex for doing the same job.

That is illegal; even though these laws are still not necessarily being followed in every case almost 44 years after they were implemented.

The overall average median pay gap is 8.35 per cent, but in the finance and insurance sector the difference is more than 20 per cent based on the companies that had reported their figures at the time of writing.

That amounts to 1,146 companies – around 10 per cent of the total number due before March 30 or April 4, depending on whether they are respectively public companies or private companies or charities with more than 250 employees.

Nearly three quarters of these companies had a pay gap in favour of men, 14 per cent had a pay gap in favour of women, and 12 per cent had no pay gap at all.

Companies like Virgin Atlantic, Kwik Fit and Npower have all seen wider differences in median pay between the sexes, and they have varying explanations.

Npower, for example, was reported as saying its widening gender pay gap related to more women than men taking up a salary sacrifice benefits scheme.

Last year, Kwik Fit had a pay gap in favour of women, which was attributed to most women in the company being in senior roles and earning higher wages than their male counterparts.

But as some of these women have left the company, the position has shifted to a 14 per cent gap in favour of men.

Even though these figures are disappointing to say the least, they are small fry compared to the 36.8 per cent gap in pay seen at RBS, and the 32.8 per cent at Lloyds Banking Group.

So, the idea that naming and shaming companies with the largest pay gaps would encourage them to close them appears to have had little impact.