Almost half of the biggest UK firms increased their gender pay gap last year

New research reveals that not only has Britain’s gender pay gap grown among 45% of large firms but also that the next generation of workers may take time to close the salary discrepancy too

Almost half of the biggest UK firms increased their gender pay gap last year

Awareness of the gender pay gap has certainly been raised in recent years. One push to bridge the gore was the 2017 introduction of the legal requirement that all big businesses must officially report their gender pay gap. It meant companies now face the risk of being named and shamed if they fail to achieve equal salaries for men and women. However, looking at the 10,428 firms who submitted their annual gender pay gap report by Thursday April 4, the BBC has revealed that inequality in corporate Britain is still alive and kicking.

The broadcaster’s investigation unearthed that only 48% of UK firms with 250 employees or more have closed their gap. Discouragingly, 45% of firms increased their pay gap in favour of men, while there was no change in 7% of firms. Overall, 78% of companies had a pay gap in favour of men, while 14% favoured women and 8% reported no difference. 

The research suggested that the firms with the largest pay gaps were Independent Vetcare at 48.3% and easyJet at 47.9%. But, while Independent Vetcare had closed its pay gap from the previous year from 50.5%, Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s airline’s chasm had grown from 45.5%. 

Other firms who increased their pay gap included Kwik Fit, Interserve FS and Inchape. Among the firms who’d improved their pay gap the most were Newsquest Media Group, Mitie and DFD Logistics. 

Speaking with the BBC, Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Great Britain’s national equality body, said: “Meaningful change will take time and concerted effort, with some changes potentially increasing gaps in the short term, such as employing more women at junior levels before they rise into more senior positions. That is why it is vital that employers publish action plans to explain their figures and highlight where they will be targeting any inequality in their workplace.”

Disheartingly, a separate study suggests it may take some time before the pay gap closes. Having surveyed 5,000 students, Bright Network, a support platform for graduates, found that male students‘ annual starting salary expectations were 15% higher,than female ones’ – ending at £29,700 and £25,900 respectively. There were also issues surrounding confidence as 48% of male graduates said they felt prepared for the workforce, while only 31% of female graduates felt the same. Furthermore, 71% of male graduates believed they’d get a job after uni, a sentiment only shared by half of their female peers.

These two separate pieces of research confirm there’s still a long way to go in terms of closing it.

Louisa Cook
Louisa Cook

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