Quarter of employees received a bonus this year but women were likely to be left out, data finds

Analysis also reveals older female workers experienced a bonus pay gap of more than £2k compared to their male counterparts

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A quarter (25.9 per cent) of employees received a bonus between June 2021 and June 2022, but women were less likely to get one, data has revealed.

The Cendex analysis of data from 403 organisations found that the likelihood of receiving a bonus increased from 22 per cent in 2021 by three percentage points to 25 per cent this year.

The data also found that the average value awarded across all individuals sat at £2,519, but that female employees were “less likely” to receive one, and those who did got less money than their male counterparts. 

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A third (31.3 per cent) of male employees received a bonus, compared to just under a quarter (23.7 per cent) of female employees. Additionally, while men received an average bonus of £2,907, women only got an average award of £1,761.

Carolyn Hobdey, chief people consultant at Brilliant, said the reasons female staff receive lower bonus payments than their male counterparts may not be “black and white” in terms of how the data was calculated or interpreted.

“However, it would not surprise me if, all those things being equal, women are still receiving less. Pay has still not equalised and that is problematic,” she said, adding that this “devalues the contribution of women and makes them less likely to stay/go for promotion/be loyal – although I actually don’t think that it will make them work less hard because they know they have to to be considered as competent”.

In order for organisations to ensure better pay parity, Hobdey said methods such as reviewing pay scales and grading systems and evaluating roles to ensure there is equal pay for work of equal value will be key. 

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“Then it’s about reviewing reward systems to root out any overt or covert bias within them – sometimes an external expert is worth the investment to ensure this is done thoroughly,” she added.

The gender disparity in bonus pay widened with age, as men aged 50 received an average bonus of £4,929.23 – more than double the amount received by women the same age, which was an average of £2,416.46.

Alan Lewis, employment lawyer at Constantine Law, said that not every case where women and men receive different bonuses is legally problematic. For example, if the bonus is awarded based on a percentage of one’s salary and a woman earns less than a man, “that wouldn't necessarily be in breach of equal pay legislation, unless the salaries themselves were out of line because a man and a woman are doing the same work or work of equal value”.

However, he warned that in cases where people who work full time in the office are getting bonuses and those who work part time and from home are not getting a bonus at all, that would be an issue. “That would not only be indirect sex discrimination because it tends to be women who've got childcare responsibilities who have to work from home, but it would also be breaching the part-time workers regulations, because you're treating part-time workers less favourably than full-time workers.”

Meanwhile, a separate survey of 250 UK-based CEOs and senior managers from Ciphr found that two fifths (40 per cent) of employers believe salary impacts on productivity levels, followed by bonuses and performance incentives (31 per cent).

However, it also found that other aspects of working life were ranked highly by employers in increasing productivity, including flexible working (30 per cent), a healthy working environment (29 per cent) and supportive management (28 per cent) – suggesting that pay and bonuses aren’t everything.

While emphasising that usually it is the elements beyond money that build a positive workplace culture, Chris Preston, director and co-founder of The Culture Builders, admitted that “money will always be hugely important – it's literally the price of entry to a company”.

"Underpaying someone, even if you have an amazing workplace, will feel unfair and quickly break down what is good about the organisation. We should pay people what they are worth if we want to show we value them," he added.

Echoing this, Helen Astill, HR services director at HR Solutions, said: “For many people, culture and flexibility will be more important, but, with the harsh realities of the current financial situation, they still need to feed their family and keep them warm.”