Gender pay gap reporting: the results

Chris Hogg, Senior Solicitor at Monaco Solicitors, has been reviewing the recent gender pay gap reports looking for some answers.

Gender pay gap visual representation

The deadline has just passed for gender pay gap reporting and the results are in. Companies who employ more than 250 people have been required to disclose the pay gap between their male and female employees.  In over 80% of the companies who have reported, the median pay for male employees is higher than for female employees. Unfortunately, there was often a significant difference between the two, with the biggest gaps being in the finance, construction and education industries.

In explaining this pay gap most companies have taken the line that they don’t discriminate against women, apparently men are just paid more because there are more men in senior positions.  Mostly absent from their explanations is any justification for why this is the case.

Where companies have sought to justify the lack of woman in senior positions, they have blamed societal issues. For example, the greater caring responsibilities women have. It is suggested that these issues limit their ability to undertake senior roles, rather than any discrimination by the companies. But is that the end of the story for women employed in those companies with a large gender pay gap? There are two areas where it seems you should keep a close eye on an employer’s behaviour: promotions and pay.

Why are more women not promoted to senior positions?

As most companies have tried to explain the pay gap by pointing out that men hold more senior positions, it begs the questions: Why is this the case? And, is fair consideration being given to promoting women?

Obviously, if a man is promoted to a role when a woman is better qualified for it, this is unlawful sex discrimination but discrimination is not usually this blatant.  Often promotions are done without a transparent process taking place, making it difficult for appropriate comparisons to be made. However, this lack of process also makes it more difficult for an employer to justify their decision, and, it can also be used to your advantage. 

If you question why you were not promoted, where no formal process has been followed, it can be difficult for your employer to come up with non-discriminatory reasons for this promotion.  This is important, because, if you are treated less favourably to a man in a similar position to you, there is a presumption of discrimination unless your employer can point to non-discriminatory reasons for the treatment.

Companies have also blamed women’s greater caring commitments for their failure to occupy senior roles.  However, this, in itself, could be unlawful discrimination. Unless the company can objectively justify why these senior roles can not be undertaken in a more flexible way, their failure to accommodate more flexibility in these roles can amount to indirect sex discrimination.  

Different pay same job!

Women and men have the right to be paid the same for doing the same job to the same level.  This is the issue the BBC faced when pay for its presenters was reported, showing a large discrepancy between what the top men and women were paid.  This is not usually an issue for more junior roles, when pay for a particular position is often set within a tight band, but in many companies pay at the more senior levels is not at all transparent.

It was unsurprising to see finance having one of the worst gender pay gaps.  Not only are there more men in senior positions but the setting of bonuses can be more of an art than a science, indeed bonuses are a particularly opaque method of rewarding staff. Employees are often forbidden to talk about pay and, in any case, are often reluctant to do so, making it difficult for comparisons to be made. To combat this, try to keep your ear to the ground and listen out for information about your colleagues’ salaries. You should also ensure you understand your employer’s reasons for paying you what you are paid, so you can challenge this if necessary.

Even if men and women are doing different jobs, they have the right to be paid the same for work of equal value or work that is rated as equivalent.  Historically, jobs done mainly by women, such as cleaning, have been paid less then jobs done predominantly by men, such as rubbish collection. Local authorities have been dealing with such claims for years.  Now supermarkets are facing claims from shelf stackers and checkout operators, jobs done predominantly by women, who are paid less than warehouse workers, an occupation overwhelmingly held by men.  The supermarkets in question have already lost some of these early claims. It is important to remember that you should not just compare yourself to your peers. For example, if you are in a predominantly female profession, then consider whether there are other jobs in your company predominantly undertaken by men which are better paid and shouldn’t be.

Just because there may be reasons for the gender pay gap that don’t arise out of unlawful discrimination, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t also unlawful reasons for the pay gap. If your employer does have a large gender pay gap, you may want to consider your own treatment, and pay, and whether this has been fair.

In conclusion: key points regarding the gender pay gap

  1. Over 80% of companies who have reported their gender pay gap have a higher median pay for men than women, often significantly so.
  2. While some of the reasons for this pay gap may not amount to unlawful discrimination this doesn’t mean that you are not being unlawfully discriminated against.
  3. Women should be given fair consideration for promotion, including the consideration of flexible working for the role.
  4. Women should be paid equally to men for doing the same work, as well as for doing work rated as equivalent or of equal value.

If you would like to learn more about gender pay gap reporting, please review the ACAS website. If you are experiencing discrimination at work or you would like some advice about negotiating your exit, contact our solicitors to see if they can help.

Next steps

If you want to talk to us about your work situation, including your next steps and whether you deserve a better deal, just get in touch on 020 7717 5259 or request a free consultation, no obligation.