The gender pay gap has widened at nearly a third of government departments over the past 12 months, despite pledges to reduce the difference in earnings between male and female civil servants.
In the midst of Brexit chaos, 18 government departments posted their gender pay gap results for 2018 on Wednesday, without issuing press releases or announcements.
Under the rules, which came into force in April this year, five of the departments reported a larger gender pay gap, meaning the average difference in what they pay men and women increased in the 12 months to April 2018.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Department for Exiting the European Union, Department for International Development, Department for International Trade and HM Treasury all reported a growth in the median gap in what they pay men and women.
The overall median gender pay gap for the civil service narrowed by 0.5 percentage points from 12.7% in 2017 to 12.2%.
A government spokesperson said: “The overall civil service gender pay gap continues to narrow and we will continue to work hard to balance out wages at all levels of government.”
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society – which campaigns for gender equality, said the number of government departments reporting an increased pay gap was worrying.
“It appears that under cover of Brexit chaos government have released their pay gap data,” she said. “We need a UK government strategy for closing the pay gap which addresses all its causes and sees government leading the way, not falling behind.”
The reports reveal some stark differences in the median hourly pay between men and women across departments.
The biggest rise in unequal pay was reported by the DCMS where the median gap nearly trebled from 8.2% to 22.9% in 2018. The figures showed that for every £1 paid to a man in the department a woman was paid 77p.
A report from the department that accompanies its reported figures reveals that female civil servants faced a “loyalty penalty” in the past 12 months.
Three men who were hired externally at director level were “recruited on much higher salaries” than the new female directors who were all internally promoted and limited by civil service policy on internal pay increases.
The report states: “DCMS follows current civil service-wide guidelines on pay and promotion within the SCS [senior civil service], but will internally monitor and review any impact this has on the DCMS gender pay gap. We should, however, work even harder to attract as many specialist women as men from the external market.”
A DCMS spokeswoman said the additional of digital policy to the department had affected the gender pay gap. Unlike the year before, for the 2018 figures the average male employee was a grade A, while the average woman was a grade B. “We are committed to reducing our gender pay gap and are taking action to target this area,” she said.
A former civil servant said that many women were very loyal to the service, at least in part because of progressive policies aimed at working parents. “Women get flexible working, so they stay in those roles, but then they are screwed on pay,” they said.
The largest median bonus gender pay gap was reported by the transport department where on average women were paid 18.3% less than men. Women’s median hourly rate in 2018 was 15.6% lower than men’s, a decrease of seven percentage points from last year when it stood at 22.6%. Bernadette Kelly, permanent secretary at the department, said she wanted it to be an “inclusive, flexible and diverse place to work”.
She said measures had been introduced to support gender equality but acknowledged “there is still work to do to encourage more women to work in the department and the wider transport sector”.
The gap also more than trebled at the international trade department in the year to April 2018, rising from 2.7% to 9.4%. The gap remained 0% in the Department of Work and Pensions and reduced at 12 other central government departments.
“Even in the departments where the gap is closing, it’s a pitiful rate of progress – and as a consequence we are all missing out on the benefits that this could bring our economy and our society.”
The national average gender pay gap among all employees in the UK was 17.9% in April 2018, down from 18.4% in April 2017.
Additional reporting by Dina Caruso
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