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Public Sector Gender Pay Gap in the Second Year Reveals Insignificant Change

on Wednesday, 15 May 2019.

Recent publications indicate that there is a growing pay gap within the public sector.

The second year of gender pay reporting shows that a median pay gap of 14.2% exists in the public sector as of pay data for March 2018. This is a slight increase from the 14% based on the 2017 data. However the public sector pay gap is still below the national average (including both public and private sector employers) of 17.9% based on March 2018 data.

A report compiled by Jon Boys, CIPD's labour market economist, shows that out of the 1,594 public sector organisations that filed a response by 31 March 2019 (compared to 1,683 last year), over 88% reported a median gap in favour of men. The data also revealed that average pay gaps had grown by 0.4% in the education sector, 0.6% in human health activities, and 1.45% in the police services.

According to separate analysis carried by The Guardian, 44 out of the 50 public sector organisations with the biggest pay gaps were multi-academy trusts. Higher Education institutions were also recorded as having a wide pay gap, with one university having a median pay gap of 36% - the highest of any university. However, several local authorities had pay gaps of more than 20% in favour of women, reflecting the fact that the lowest paid employees for those authorities were men.

The Gender Pay Gap in Medicine Review, which was led by Professor Dame Jane Dacre, also found that in the NHS, two in three consultants are males, and they earn £1.17 for every £1 earned by female consultants. The review also found that the overall median pay gap in the NHS is 23%, with male doctors earning 17% more than their female colleagues.

Many organisations did not produce a narrative or action plan to accompany the gender pay reports. This year, only 1,081 gender pay reports contained web links - with a number of these simply redirecting to the organisation's home page or their previous gender pay report with no updated information.

Although, the provision of narratives is not a mandatory part of the reporting process, an explanation assists employees, and others, in understanding an organisations pay gap, and the reasons for it, and is therefore highly recommended.

CIPD's diversity and inclusion advisor, Claire McCartney, also referred to the failure to narrow the public sector pay gap as "disappointing", but stressed that gender pay reporting shouldn’t be a tick-box exercise. It is widely accepted that initiatives to reduce any gender pay gap will take time, several years at least.

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Best Practice

It appears that organisations may be focusing on compliance, rather than developing or implementing action plans and exploring the underlying reasons behind the challenges of closing gender pay gaps. We can support organisations in undertaking analysis and creating plans to address and close the pay gap.

For more information, please contact Gemma Cawthray in our Employment Law team on 0117 314 5266.