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Girls & Women

The Gender Pay Gap Has Actually Widened at Nearly Half of Britain's Biggest Companies


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The results are in from the second year of obligatory gender pay gap reporting for the UK’s largest organisations — and … it’s a bit underwhelming. 

Sam Smethers, chief executive at the gender equality charity Fawcett Society, hit the nail on the head when she described the findings as “disappointing but not surprising.” 

Over 10,000 organisations — only those with over 250 employees have to publish their data — submitted details about their own gender pay gaps in time for the deadline, at midnight on Thursday for companies and charities, and March 31 for the public sector. 

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And the gender pay gap has actually reportedly gotten worse over the past year at nearly half of the organisations — 45% to be exact. A further 7% saw no change. 

Overall, the median gender pay gap has decreased (minimally) from 9.7% to 9.6%. The median pay gap essentially means comparing the difference in salary between a middle-ranking man and a middle-ranking woman from the same company. 

Smethers said that a significant reason for the lack of progress is that “the regulations are not tough enough.” 

She said that right now is the “time for action plans not excuses” — calling for employers to create five-year strategies on how to close the gap, to monitor progress, and to get results. 

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And, according to Smethers, the government “needs to require employers to public action plans that we can hold them accountable to, with meaningful sanctions in place for those who do not comply.”

She did also highlight that a possible reason some employers could have a wider gap this year than last is because of taking on new female junior staff in order to develop their pipeline.

She said: “But unless they can demonstrate that, it is more likely that they’ve failed to make changes.” 

In total, some 78% of firms have a pay gap favouring men, and 14% had a pay gap that favours women. The rest had no reported difference. 

Among the top three worst offenders were Countrywide Services, with a pay gap of 60.6%; Independent Vetcare at 48.3%; and airline Easyjet, with a pay gap of 47.9%. 

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Some of those that saw the biggest improvement were: Newsquest Media Group, facilities management company Mitie, and supply chain service DFDS Logistics. 

For those organisations that didn’t get their gender pay gap reporting in on time, they could now face enforcement action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

According to the BBC, however, there isn’t a definitive list of the companies that are required to file their data, so it’s difficult to know how many missed the deadline. 

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Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady, said in response to the findings that: “Big employers clearly aren’t doing enough to tackle the root causes of pay inequality and working women are paying the price.” 

“Government needs to crank up the pressure,” she added. “Companies shouldn’t just be made to publish their gender pay gaps, they should be legally required to explain how they’ll close them, and bosses who flout the law should be fined.” 

She said: “We can’t allow another generation of women to spend their whole working lives waiting to be paid the same as men.”