U.K. Employers Urged to Provide Gender Pay Gap Details

Fewer than 1,000 companies have filed with two months to go.
Enforcement could start with a reprimand, end with steep fines.

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With a little more than two months to the deadline, only about 10 percent of eligible employers have submitted information about their gender-pay gap to the U.K. government, and the Equalities Office is encouraging the rest of them to get on with it.

Hover over the chart below to see what the companies have filed so far.

companies have reported their average hourly pay gap

Fewer than 1,000 companies have filed the newly required disclosures, out of more than 9,000 estimated to be eligible, according to a government website. Any firm with 250 or more employees in the U.K. must report the difference between what men and women earn, on average, as well as any gap in the bonuses they receive.

In a letter that went out to the eligible companies, the government reminded them of their obligation and asked them to say when they plan to publish their data.

“The government wants to raise awareness of this new requirement, and to explain that non-compliance is not an option,” said Charles Cotton, senior adviser at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, a London-based association for human resources professionals.

What will happen to companies that fail to file by the deadline is yet to be determined. The government’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is overseeing the process, has said its options range from informal persuasion to unlimited fines. The agency is soliciting comments on its intended approach through Friday.

“There’s a general lack of clarity on the consequences of not publishing,” says Sarah Ashcroft, an employment solicitor at PwC, which is advising clients on the process. In the end, she said, public pressure and the bad press associated with not reporting could be a bigger incentive to publish than any government-imposed sanctions.

No third-party audit of the data submitted is required. In December, The Financial Times discovered several companies had filed statistically implausible figures, after which altered numbers were re-submitted.

Very little data has been submitted yet from companies in financial services, where women make up only 14 percent of executive committees and senior level jobs, according to a government-backed report. None of the large investment banks have filed, although some banks such as Virgin Money Holdings UK Plc and TSB, and some insurers, such as Aviva Plc and Zurich Insurance Group AG, have done so. Virgin Money reported a 38.4 percent pay gap and the bank said it was committed to reducing it.

“We haven’t seen the major investment banks reporting their numbers yet, but they aren’t expected to be good,” Dominie Moss, the founder of The Return Hub, a search firm that connects employers with financial services women who have been on a career break. “There’s a real opportunity here for leadership in the sector—for a bank to get on the front foot, show that they really understand the gender pay gap is an important issue, and show what they are doing to tackle it in their firm.”

The issue of fairness—or lack thereof—in pay has gathered momentum as the deadline approaches. In July, the publication of the British Broadcasting Corp.’s highest earners revealed an imbalance between men and women at the top of the organization. Several months later, the network’s China editor Carrie Gracie resigned because of disparity in her pay with male editors.

In the corporate world, shareholders are beginning to press companies about their pay gaps. ISS, the investor advisory service, advised Easyjet PLC’s shareholders that an initial decision to award a new male CEO a higher salary than his female predecessor was “not without concern.”

Days later, CEO Johan Lundgren’s salary, originally set at 740,000 pounds ($1.05 million) was reduced to 706,000 pounds, equal to what his predecessor, Carolyn McCall, earned before bonuses earned last year. In November, Easyjet reported that its male employees make on average 52 percent more than its female employees, one of the widest gaps reported so far.