The education sector has one of the highest gender pay gaps for full time and part time staff combined. In 2015, when the national average was 9.1% the equivalent gender pay gap in the Education Sector amounted to 25.7% (1). To be fair, there are a number of sectors that have gender pay gaps that are higher than the national average (2). 

It is however interesting to note that some employers in the Education Sector are currently taking steps to address gender pay related issues. The University of Essex is reportedly increasing the salaries of female professors to bring their average salaries in line with those of male professors whilst King’s College London is reputedly preferring female applicants where there are both male and female applicants of equal capability for academic staff positions. Both are addressing identified concerns in advance of the date on which large employers will become obliged to publish their gender pay gap information. 

The Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2016 are due to come into force in October 2016 and are expected to be published in their final form just before then. They will require employers with 250 or more employees to publish a range of gender pay related information on a Government sponsored website. This will facilitate easy access for comparison purposes to information that includes:

  1. The overall ‘mean’ gender pay gap;
  2. The overall ‘median’ gender pay gap;
  3. The number of male and female relevant employees in each quartile of the organisation’s pay distribution;
  4. The difference in ‘mean’ bonus payments; and
  5. The proportion of male and female relevant employees in receipt of a bonus.

Presumably the action taken by the University of Essex and King’s College London reflects the result of analysis they have undertaken to identify gender pay related areas of concern and their response to addressing those areas of concern. 

Other large employers should follow suit, in terms of undertaking gender pay related analysis now, for the following reasons:

  • The details employers will have to publish in 2018 will relate to bonus payments in the current financial year and basic pay that relates to the April 2017 pay period;
  • It may be necessary to adapt existing systems to allow for the extraction of the information necessary to undertake the calculations;
  • A ‘dummy run’ based on April 2016 figures will highlight the likely results of the exercise that will have to be undertaken next year, whilst there is still time to address the position;
  • It would be wise to allow time for an investigation of the reasons for any gender pay difference well before the results have to be published. There are usually lots of reasons why the average rates of pay of female employees are different to those of male employees when taken across an entire organisation. Often they have nothing to do with unlawful behaviour on the part of the employer but it takes time and effort to establish that this is the case. 

Being able to present a gender pay gap as not being related to discriminatory factors could make all the difference to the reputation of an organisation and the management of the risk of expensive equal pay related challenges in the brave new world of openness and accountability in respect of gender pay.

  1. Office for National Statistics - Both figures based on gross hourly earnings excluding overtime for both full and part time employees, calculated on a median basis.
  2. Office for National Statistics - Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) 2015 - Gender pay gap for median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) by industry sectors, UK, April 2015