Bloomberg’s David Goodman highlights a new report from the UK’s Office for National Statistics showing that whereas London had the narrowest gap of any region in the UK in 1997, today it has the widest. While London’s gender pay gap has narrowed only slightly in the past two decades, from 15.1 percent to 14.6 percent, this has been eclipsed by huge progress in every other part of the country, with gender pay inequality the lowest in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (where women actually earn slightly more than men). Unfortunately, London accounts for a substantial share of the UK’s economy and workforce, so overall, the country is making sluggish progress toward closing the gap:
In the public sector, the wage gap has stagnated in the country as a whole, with women earning 13.1 percent less per hour, from 13.5 percent in 1997. While the gulf is bigger in private industry, at 15.9 percent, the sector has seen a dramatic improvement from 23.8 percent two decades ago. Among part-time workers, the picture is very different, with women earning more in all U.K. regions.
The gender pay gap has come under greater scrutiny this year in the UK, where new regulations came into effect in April requiring organizations with 250 employees or more to collect and publish data showing any gender discrepancies in their payrolls. The impending deadline of April 2018 for employers to report has many HR leaders worried about how to publicize and explain gaps that they know exist, but may not have the power to eliminate.
As we have found in our research at CEB, now Gartner, the global gender pay gap is significant, but the part of it rewards professionals can directly address is limited. UK companies are rightly concerned, however, about the reputational costs of reporting a wide-looking gender gap, as our research also finds even perceptions of pay inequity can harm employee engagement and retention.
XpertHR, which sells a service to help UK employers collect and report their gender pay data, puts out the results of a survey it conducted at Personnel Today, in which the company found that that most UK employers had already calculated their pay gaps but were not reporting them just yet:
[A]necdotal evidence gathered by XpertHR suggests that organisations with especially disappointing pay gaps are holding back on reporting until sufficient numbers of employers have reported in order to avoid standing out from the crowd. Others are waiting to see what pay gaps their immediate competitors have before framing their own reports. Others are simply unsure how to report and what commentary to include to set their data in a context that can be understood by employees and the outside world.
Some major employers have already released their figures, such as the Bank of England, which revealed last week that it had a 24 percent gender pay gap—which it attributed to the gender imbalance in senior leadership, while stressing that men and women in the same roles were paid equally and that the bank is working to address the systemic imbalances causing the gap. A 24 percent gap is actually pretty good, by the standards of British financial institutions: Quartz’s Lianna Brinded notes that the median gap in that sector is 30.9 percent.