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What is the Gender Pay Gap and where are we?

Published 01 December 2017

Campaign groups have said it will take 100 years to close the gap in pay and in some parts of the UK, the gender pay gap is so wide, it is as though women work unpaid from September.
The Gender pay gap is an issue facing a lot of businesses today and the government wants large firms to disclose their pay gap, but will not force them to comply.

Government research has found that, despite the introduction of the gender pay gap reporting regulations(1) in April 2017, which is aimed at employers with more the 250 employees, a third of them consider reducing the gender pay gap a low priority as far as business is concerned.

A report was commissioned by the Government Equalities Office (2) to look at the following:

·         employers understanding of the gender pay gap,

·         action employers are taking to close it; and

·         their response to the new gender pay gap transparency regulations

Employers Understanding

The report really highlights some of the issues and even though there is awareness of the terms “gender pay gap”, 41% of businesses were unclear as to how the gender pay gap was calculated.

The highest understanding of the gender pay gap was amongst public sector employers and those who employed 1,000 or more employees. The report also revealed that there was some confusion amongst employers about the difference between the gender pay gap and equal pay(3) .

The gender pay gap is the average difference between a man's and a woman's remuneration across the organisation. It is expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. Taking into account all workers, both full and part-time, the median average gap has risen slightly from 18.2% in 2016 to 18.4% this year.

The gender pay gap at the BBC was recently exposed with men found to be earning an average of 9.3% more than women(4) .

However, Director General Tony Hall said it showed the BBC was "in a better place than many organisations" where the gap is higher.

Female presenters are now demanded "real change" by the end of 2017 after it was revealed two-thirds of stars on more than £150,000 a year were men.

Equal pay means that men and women in the same employment performing equal work must receive equal pay, as set out in the Equality Act 2010(5) .

Female workers won an equal pay claim against Birmingham City Council(6) .

Women who had worked for decades for Birmingham City Council celebrated when they were told they had won their battle for equal pay, but some were angry that they had to go to court.

In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled the council would have to pay claims brought by former employees who earned less than male counterparts. The following year the council agreed to settle 11,000 claims.

And more recently 17,000 former and current employees of Asda and 1,000 Sainsbury's workers are in claims for equal pay(7) . An employment tribunal found in 2016 that the Asda women, who mainly worked at check-outs or stacking shelves, could compare themselves to higher paid men working in warehouses.

What actions are employers making?

The study found that a third of organisations had measured their gender pay gap in the previous 12 months, as a dry run in preparation for the regulations coming into force. The most common analysis carried out by the organisation, was calculating the proportions of men and women at different pay levels followed by measuring the proportion of men and women who were paid bonuses.  However, just over 10%, either communicated or published their results.

The attitude of an employer to reduce the gender pay gap varies between employers with some treating this as a high priority were generally motivated by a desire to be fair.

The larger the employers are more likely they were to have prepared for the regulations and with just one in five employers intending to publish any additional information alongside the mandatory reporting, and in most cases, this was a narrative commentary on the results.

Private sector organisations were least inclined to go beyond the basic requirements, with 83 per cent either not planning to produce additional information or unsure as to whether they would do so.

The deadline for reporting on the gender pay gap is certainly drawing closer and the report shows that employers have a lot to do to meet their gender pay gap reporting obligations.

I would certainly advise employers to look at this and make sure they are not going to be caught out and put an action plan in place.

To read the full report see the link below(8) .


1. The Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 [Internet]. [cited 2017 Nov 27]. Available from:

2.  Government Equalities Office - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2017 Nov 27]. Available from:

3.  Equal pay | Equality and Human Rights Commission [Internet]. [cited 2017 Nov 27]. Available from:

4.  BBC’s 9% gender pay gap revealed. BBC News [Internet]. 2017 Oct 4 [cited 2017 Nov 27]; Available from:

5.  Participation E. Equality Act 2010 [Internet]. [cited 2017 Nov 27]. Available from:

6.  Law BPS. Council workers win landmark case over equal pay [Internet]. BPS Law. 2012 [cited 2017 Nov 27]. Available from:

7.  Another victory for workers in their fight for equal pay against Asda [Internet]. [cited 2017 Nov 27]. Available from:

8.  Gender pay gap: employers’ action and understanding - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2017 Nov 27]. Available from:



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