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Whitehall’s gender pay gap

The Government may have pledged to “end the gender pay gap in a generation” but, as the Annual Civil Service Employment Survey shows, government departments themselves are still marked by significant differences in the average earnings of male and female staff. Ollie Hirst examines the latest data.

The Civil Service had a gender pay gap of around 13% in 2015, compared to 18% in 2007.

The gender pay gap in the Civil Service as a whole is 12.8%, having decreased from 18% in 2007. For full-time employees, the earnings of a male civil servant are on average 9.8% higher than those of a female civil servant (compared to 15.2% in 2007).

Although the reduction of the Civil Service pay gap to its lowest recorded level has been lauded by the Cabinet Office, problems remain. These include the types of career and levels of seniority that women reach, as Permanent Secretary Melanie Dawes – in her role as Civil Service Gender Champion – has pointed out. Last year the refreshed Talent Action Plan set out measures to combat such issues, including the provision of more tailored support to female civil servants on maternity leave as well as only allowing all-male shortlists for senior recruitment (such as for Permanent Secretary at the FCO last year) in exceptional circumstances.

The Cabinet Office has the largest difference between male and female pay, while DWP has the smallest.

Across Whitehall, the largest difference is in the Cabinet Office; the median annual earnings of a female civil servant in this department are £35,370, compared to £46,000 for a male employee (23.1% higher). The smallest gap is in DWP, in which the median pay of a female civil servant is less than 1% lower than that of a male civil servant.

As pay remits are assessed and approved dependent on their compliance with equal pay legislation, there should not be a difference in earnings for men and women in equivalent posts. The overall pay gap may be linked to the fact that women make up a larger proportion of the more junior grades than they do of the most senior, as well as accounting for the vast majority of part-time posts.

Even within the Senior Civil Service, female employees have lower average earnings.

However, even within grades there are differences in male and female earnings. In 2013, the NAO found that the gender pay gap in the Senior Civil Service (SCS) was at 5.3%, the highest level since it was first monitored in 2001. Although this upward trend has not continued, male staff at the most senior grade are on average paid 4.9% more than their female counterparts. The Treasury is the only department to have parity of median earnings between men and women in the most senior grade. DECC is the department with the widest pay gap between male and female senior civil servants, where the average annual earnings of women are around £14,000 less than those of men.

Pay bands within grades can result in this gap in average earnings, despite male and female staff working at the same grade. A report by the Cabinet Office last year suggested that more women occupying the lower end of the SCS pay scales is an important factor in this gender disparity. With the Government committed to tackling the gender pay gap, this data shows it should not only target its efforts at businesses and the private sector, but also within Whitehall itself.

Abbreviations for government departments can be found here.

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