Final gender pay gap figures for large companies in the UK have been revealed after the deadline expired for firms to report their findings.
More than three-quarters of UK companies pay men more on average than women. More than 10,000 companies published data, with more than 1,000 firms reporting on the last day.
The median pay gap among those companies was 9.7%. The figures indicate 78% of firms pay men more than women on average, while 14% pay women more.
This is based on the median measure, which is the level of pay that separates the top half of earners from the lower half. In total, 8% said they had no pay gap between men and women..
The gender pay gap is not the same as having unequal pay, which would be against the law. By law, men and women with the same jobs have to be paid the same wages.
A gender pay gap can arise if there are more highly paid men than women in a company, or if women are deemed to be less experienced than their male counterparts, or if women take a hit to their salary after taking maternity leave.
In reporting gender pay, firms with more than 250 staff have to publish data on the average difference between male and female employees.
What action can be taken against firms that don’t report?
Rebecca Hilsenrath is chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which can prosecute large companies that have not reported their gender pay gap details.
“We’re looking at approximately 1,500 companies which haven’t reported,” she told the BBC.
“We’re obviously pleased with the rate of reporting, but it is the law, it’s not an option. It is the right thing to do, and we will be enforcing against all those organisations which failed to meet the deadline.”
In practice, this would mean a statutory investigation process, she said.
The EHRC will be sending letters to all of those organisations on Monday. They will then have 28 days to respond. Terms of reference will then be issued for the enforcement process, which will be made public.
“This is going to be a very public affair. It will impact quite considerably on members of the public, people who work for them, and you’ll see a growing backlash against people who aren’t complying,” she said.
The EHRC will also take enforcement action against firms reporting implausible figures, Ms Hilsenrath said. Aside from adverse publicity, the EHRC can take non-compliant firms to court, she said.
“The court will fine, and the process will result in a summary conviction, and unlimited fines set by the court,” she added.
However, the more important issue is what companies will do to address the pay gap, she added.
“We want them [firms] to look at their flexible working practices, we want to look at them tackling bias, conscious and unconscious, and we’re looking to them to address instances of pregnancy and maternity pay discrimination, which is rising in this country,” Ms Hilsenrath said.
Which organisations have reported a pay gap?
Airline Ryanair was one of the companies reporting a large difference, with a 71.8% gender pay gap.
Firms which reported pay gap figures on Wednesday included Theo Paphitis’ lingerie firm Boux Avenue, which reported a median hourly pay gap of 75.7%. Mr Paphitis was one of the cast of BBC Two show Dragon’s Den.
London fashion house Karen Millen reported a gender pay gap of 49%
High Street brands Costa, KFC, Matalan, McDonald’s, Primark and Starbucks reported no difference in what they paid their female and male staff.
Some firms reported so-called “negative” pay gaps, where women are paid on average more than men. These included electric car firm Tesla Motors, baby clothes retailer Mamas and Papas, and consumer electronics firm Richer Sounds.
As for differences between bonuses, several NHS trusts have high figures, with Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust General Purposes Charity revealing a figure of 99.4%.
Some have said reporting the pay gap is crude and open to misinterpretation.
However, gender equality campaigning charity the Fawcett Society has said it is an opportunity for employees to talk about pay and find out what their colleagues earn.