Pay gap FAQs

This section answers the most commonly asked questions about the pay gap.

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is the difference between men’s and women’s average hourly pay, and is the key indicator of women’s inequality at work.

It represents women’s and men’s divergent experiences of not only the workplace, but also education, skills acquisition, care and other domestic labour, and wider societal conventions.

How does the gender pay gap relate to equal pay?

The gender pay gap is not the same thing equal pay, although unequal pay is one of the causes of the pay gap. Equal pay for equal work is only one small piece of the pay gap picture and tackling this alone is not enough to close the gender pay gap.

Gender pay gap

The difference between the average hourly pay of men and women. This can be calculated at a national, regional, sectoral or employer level. The figure is expressed as a percentage. Where this figure is positive it indicates that women are paid less than men.

Equal pay

This refers to the requirement to ensure women and men receive equal pay for the same or equal work. As defined by the Equality Act 2010, an individual can claim equal pay with a comparator of the opposite sex where work is different, but which would be assessed as equal in value in terms of demands such as effort, skill and decision-making.

Don’t we have equal pay by now?

Unfortunately, no. Unintended pay inequalities are still widespread.

Following the introduction of equal pay law in 1970 employers have been on a long journey towards equal pay. Some companies have taken action to rectify these, for example by doing a job evaluation to identify instances of unequal pay, but anomalies still exist.

While equal pay law provides a legal remedy to women who have received unequal pay, most causes of the pay gap are in fact not unlawful. Instead, they’re connected to women’s wider societal inequality, and persistent stereotyping around women’s roles.

What are the causes of the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is caused by a range of factors. These include:

  • job segregation, where women and men do different types of work (horizontal segregation) and different levels of work (vertical segregation, often known as ‘the glass ceiling’);
  • a lack of quality part-time and flexible working;
  • the economic undervaluation of stereotypical female work such as care, retail, admin and cleaning;
  • women’s disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care;
  • biased and untransparent recruitment, development and progression practices;
  • male-oriented workplace cultures; and
  • discrimination in pay and grading systems.

Do all women experience these factors in the same way?

Women’s experiences vary. Disabled women, Black and minority ethnic (BME) women, Muslim women, lesbian and bisexual women, trans women, refugee women, young women, and older women experience different, multiple barriers in employment. These include a greater risk of underemployment and discrimination at work. This restricts their ability to participate on an equal basis in the labour market, and to progress within their job.

Why do I need to publish my gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap reporting regulations were brought in by the UK Government in order to encourage companies to take action to close their gender pay gaps. The intention of the Government is that companies will not just publish their pay gap data but analyse and use it to develop an action plan to address the gendered inequalities identified.

The gender pay gap is bad for business. It makes good sense to make the most of your gender pay gap reporting and strive for best practice.

What do I need to do to understand my gender pay gap?

The first step is to analyse your snapshot pay data to identify the causes of your pay gap. It is best practice to use more that just your headline pay gap data to gain a fuller picture, for example calculating your full-time and part-time gender pay gaps, and looking at gendered patterns in experiences of recruitment, development and progression. Your data will tell you which causes are the most pressing for your company, enabling you to prioritise these.

Next, you should develop an action plan which focuses on these priorities and sets out clear steps to tackle them. These steps should be measurable and have clear accountability for each action. The Close Your Pay Gap tools can do all of this for you.

What is the difference between the full-time and part-time pay gaps, and why is it important?

The overall, or combined, gender pay gap figure (which includes full and part-time employees) provides the most complete picture in relation to women’s experiences of work.

The full-time pay gap is usually lower than the overall figure as it doesn’t include part-time employees, the vast majority of whom are women, and whose hourly pay is much lower than that of a full-time employee. Some reporting on the pay gap will foreground the full-time figure, again as this may paint a more positive picture.

The part-time pay gap is usually much higher than the combined figure and highlights both the concentration of women in part-time work, and of part-time work in lower paid jobs. The part-time pay gap paints a stark picture of the undervaluing of ‘women’s work’.

What gender pay gap information do I need to publish on my company’s website?

As well as publishing your gender pay gap on the UK Government’s gender pay gap viewing service you must also publish this data on your company website, along with a written statement signed by an ‘appropriate person’, confirming the information is accurate. Who your ‘appropriate person’ is depends on the type of organisation you are, however in most cases it will be a person at the highest level of your company.

It’s also important to note that the regulations state that you must keep the information available online for at least three years. This means ensuring you maintain active links on your website to your previous reports for three years from when each report was published.

It's best practice to also publish a narrative report which explains the causes of your gender pay gap and commits to action to tackle it.

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