More than 10,000 businesses with 250 or more employees had filed their gender pay gaps – the average difference between what they pay male and female employees – by the time the official deadline passed last night (4 April).
Overall, 78 per cent of the 10,037 organisations reported that they paid men more than women on average. The average median hourly pay gap across all employers was 18.4 per cent among full and part-time workers, and 9.1 per cent among full-time workers alone. The largest pay gap, of 85.2 per cent, was reported by NWN Media, a regional news business owned by Newsquest.
The figures are calculated by companies for the Government Equalities Office using a specific annual reference or ‘snapshot date’ of 4 April for private organisations and 31 March for the public sector. Analysts found that only 14 per cent of companies paid women more on average, while 8 per cent reported having no pay gap between the sexes.
Yet despite the sizeable pay gaps reported across a number of sectors, many business leaders deny the existence of a pay gap within their own organisations, according to new research.
Of the 504 financial decision-makers surveyed by YouGov Omnibus across various business sectors, 78 per cent thought there was a gender pay gap in favour of men across companies in the UK, 13 per cent said there was no gap and 7 per cent did not know.
When asked about the situation within their own organisations, however, the answers changed significantly.
Only 21 per cent said they believed there was a gender pay gap in favour of men in their business, and more than six in 10 did not believe there was any disparity at all. More than a third of respondents (37 per cent) had not been aware of the reporting deadline at the beginning of April, the survey found.
Rudy Sooprayen, director of B2B research at YouGov Omnibus, said the research indicated “that there are many senior figures within companies that may well be in for a nasty surprise when their business posts its figures, because of the contradiction that our data reveals”.
It has been reported that several large organisations had failed to file by the deadline, though it is unclear how many overall missed it. By contrast, 12 employers have already filed their figures for 2018-19.
Analysis showed that financial services firms such as Standard Life, Aberdeen Asset Management and Royal Bank of Scotland posted some of the largest average median hourly pay gaps in favour of men. The three businesses averaged a 37 per cent gap, meaning an average woman earned 63p for every £1 the average man received.
Leanne Raven, employment lawyer at Stephenson Harwood, told People Management that while there had been discussion about what the repercussions are for companies that have failed to publish their gender pay gap, “we would expect the focus to be on those employers that have published results showing a significant gender pay gap in favour of men.
“The pressing issue for those employers will be what steps, if any, they are seen to be taking to tackle this gap.”
She noted that although much attention may be given to large pay gaps, there is a common misconception that this means there is not equal pay between men and women.
In reality, the gender pay gap demonstrates differences between the average earnings of men and women, whereas measures of equal pay focus on equal pay for equal work.
“An employer may be paying men and women equally for the same work, but still reveal a large gender pay gap – for example, if the majority of women are in lower-paid jobs,” said Raven.
As the focus turns to narrowing the gap, experts recommended more companies consider implementing policies such as flexible working.
Rachel Mapleston, business analyst at MHR, said that as women “predominantly take on the responsibility of childcare, flexible working provides them with the opportunity to take on more senior roles without it conflicting with childcare commitments”.
Firms must also evaluate their recruitment processes to avoid male-focused preconceptions about roles, and tackle unconscious bias with internal training, Mapleston suggested.
Freddie Alves, managing director of inclusion with purpose at Talking Talent, said it was “necessary to look at supporting women around the typical pinch points of their careers. These tend to be during periods of change and transition.”
Tom Hadley, director of policy at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said: “Creating more transparency is a good first step to talk about the opportunities available to everyone at work across our whole labour market.”
He added that recruiters “have a key role to play to help clients increase diversity and inclusion, address historic and systemic barriers to progression and opportunity for all, and secure more women in senior roles.
“Something as simple as tweaking the language in a job advert, promoting flexible hours or thinking about where you advertise could have a big impact.”