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Highways England gender pay gap widens

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Highways England has reported a worsening gender pay gap by 11% according to initial official figures filed ahead of this year’s reporting deadline.

Many other employers including Interserve Engineering, Laing O’Rourke and Yorkshire Water reported their gender pay gaps had widened over the last 12 months. 

Last year all UK firms with 250 or more employees were, for the first time, required to report the gender pay gap within their organisations.

Most organisations work out the gap by calculating the difference between the median hourly salaries earned by male and female employees. The median pay figure is the mid-point in the organisation’s range of hourly earnings. 

If an organisation has a 10% gap, it means that median pay for women is 10% less than it is for men. If the figure is negative, for example -10%, it means the median pay for women is 10% higher than it is for men.

Highways England reported a median gender pay gap of –1.4% last year, well below the 2017/18 nationwide average of 18.4%. However, this year the median gender pay gap has jumped 11 percentage points to +9.6%. 

That works out to women earning 90p for every £1 that men earn.  

A Highways England spokesperson said: “Our median gender pay gap of 9.6% remains substantially lower than the current UK pay gap of 17.9%, and our mean pay gap is 7.3%, compared to the UK average of 17.1%.

“The change in our gender pay gap from the previous year was largely a result of the impact of increased insourcing.”

On its website, the roads body downplays the change by comparing two different statistics: the 2018/19 median gap of 9.6% and the 2017/18 mean gap of 5.4%. The mean gender pay gap is essentially the difference in the overall average hourly salaries earned by men and women. It is used less as it can be skewed by a small number of higher salaries.

A more accurate representation would be to compare both medians, which shows the 11% jump.  

The number of women receiving bonus pay at Highways England also fell by 11% between the two years.  

Highways England is not alone in reporting a worse gender pay gap this year, Interserve Engineering, Laing O’Rourke and Yorkshire Water have all reported worse median gaps than last year.  

Costain reported a minor positive change in its gender pay gap, despite Costain chief executive and current ICE president Andrew Wyllie lobbying for greater diversity in the industry.  

“While our progress is positive, we know that there is still considerable work to do to close our gender pay gap, which this year has reduced to 24.25% (median). We are absolutely committed to closing our gender pay gap and creating a truly diverse team, as this makes us a better business,” said a Costain spokesperson. 

“Over the past year we have worked hard to reduce this gap, taking affirmative action to attract more women into Costain at all levels, helping women progress their careers and assessing employee reward. We have seen encouraging progress in addressing our gender balance with our senior female population growing from 12% to 22% over the last four years and in 2018 for the first time over 50% of our new graduates are female.” 

Elsewhere, Network Rail, in its Supply Chain Charter commits to “value and harness the diversity of our people”. But it also reported no change in its gender pay gap, currently 11%.  

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said changing the gap “will take time”.  

“Our gender pay gap stands at 11.2%, which is better than the UK average, but still a long way from where we want it to be,” he said.  

“We believe that a diverse workforce is a better workforce. It will take time but I truly believe that reducing the gender pay gap will help us have the right people in place to deliver the railway passengers deserve.” 

The figures must be calculated using a specific ”snapshot”’ date, which is March 31 for public sector organisations and April 5 for businesses and charities. That data must be published within a year of collection.

All public sector organisations have until March 30 to report their gender pay figures, private firms have until April 4.

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Highways England gender pay gap widens

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