Civil service gender pay gap widens

Treasury reports the biggest gender pay gap of any central department
Image: OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

The civil service’s gender pay gap has widened for the first time in six years, with average hourly earnings among male civil servants 11.3% higher than those of female officials.

The median gender pay gap has grown by more than a third since March 2021, when it was 8.1% – the biggest annual change since 2007, the first year for which stats are available. It is now the greatest it has been since 2018, when there was a 12.2% gap in median earnings.

Government’s gender pay gap has fallen nearly every year for the last 14 years – with the exception of 2016, when it rose slightly before falling again the following year. It stood at 18.2% in 2008.

In most cases, where large median pay gaps exist, it is because there is a higher proportion of men in senior – and more highly paid – roles, or of women in more junior roles. While there are more women than men in the civil service, accounting for 54.5% of officials, men outnumber women at grades 6 and 7 and in the senior civil service.

And this year’s expansion comes despite incremental progress in several metrics of diversity in the civil service.

As of 31 March, 47.2% of senior civil servants were women – up from 46.7% in 2021 and markedly higher than a decade ago, when they made up only 35% of the SCS. Nearly half – 48.9% – of grade 6 and 7 staff were women, up from 48.4% the year before.

Of the 16 central government departments, the Treasury had the biggest pay gap, at 17.1%, followed by the Cabinet Office, at 16.6%.

HM Revenue and Customs came in third, at 12.6%, and the Ministry of Justice and Department for Transport both had discrepancies of more than 10%. All the figures include the departments’ respective agencies.

By contrast, the Department for Work and Pensions reported a 0% pay gap, meaning average hourly pay is the same for men and women at the civil service’s biggest department.

A Treasury spokesperson said the department is “committed to taking action to reduce its gender pay gap” and had made progress with increasing senior-level representation. Half the senior civil servants at HMT are female, as are 70% of executive management board members. “We are taking further action to close the gap by changing the way we recruit, and redressing the gender balance at lower grades where women are over represented,” the spokesperson said.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson spoke to several measures the department had taken to tackle its pay gap, including its 2020 talent strategy, shortened pay ranges and supporting a gender equality group. The department will share an action plan later this yeart hat will aim to make further progress.

Despite these figures, the pay gap at both departments since 2020-21, up from 16.8% at the Treasury and 12.3% at the Cabinet Office.

They are among six departments that have reported widening pay gaps in the last year. Nine reduced their pay gaps, and one – DWP – stayed the same.

Of all the civil service organisations that reported, the Health and Safety Executive had the biggest median pay gap at 23.1%. HSE has said it aims to achieve a "much better gender balance across all bands and disciplines", with its latest pay gap report saing it "supports the fair treatment and reward of all its people and is committed to building and maintaining a diverse and inclusive organisation".

The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland followed, with 21.6%. A spokesperson for the department noted that it is a small ministry in which individual appointments to senior roles can disproportionately skew the gender pay gap compared to larger departments.

The Scotland Office and the Advocate General for Scotland, which is also included in the figure, do not directly employ officials, who are recruited by the Scottish Government or Ministry of Justice. There were 135 officials working in the department in 2021-22, according to its annual report.

UK Export Finance, which had the third-largest gender pay gap at 18.3%, is also a small department, with 492 full-time equivalent staff in March.

A UKEF spokesperson said the agency had “made progress in recent years to become the most ethnically diverse department in Whitehall”.

“We recognise that there is more we can do to address the disparity in seniority and pay of women in the workplace. Over the last five years, the number of women in senior roles has increased and we have set internal targets to continue this momentum and bridge the gender pay gap,” they added.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Food Standards Agency had a significant pay gap in favour of women – with average hourly pay 21.2% higher for women than for men.

“This is mainly due to the structure of our workforce. The FSA workforce continues to have a higher proportion of males than females with a significant number of men working in our two most junior grades (mainly as meat hygiene inspectors),” FSA HR lead Paul Moody said. Women make up a higher proportion of senior grades than men at the FSA, but only 22.4% of the lowest salary quartile.

The National Archives also had a negative gender pay gap – albeit much smaller, at -3.7%, as did Ofsted, at -1.1%.

A government spokesperson said: “The median civil service gender pay gap has continued to fall across most government departments.

“We know there is more work to be done and we are committed to ensuring all civil servants are treated fairly, regardless of gender, ethnicity or any other personal characteristic.”

They pointed to the civil service's track record of promoting flexible working, which can contribute to gender equality in the workplace. They added that since 2017, the civil service has introduced measures to boost gender equality, such as a senior sponsorship scheme for under-represented groups including women and shortened pay ranges.

Incremental progress on diversity

The proportion of civil servants from an ethnic-minority background was higher than ever before in 2022 at 15%, up slightly from 14.3% in 2021 and higher than the national average of 14.5% among the working-age population in the UK. But they continue to be underrepresented at the higher grades, with ethnic-minority representation in the SCS falling slightly from 10.6% to 10.3% in the last year.

There has also been a very slight increase in the number of civil servants declaring that they have a disability, from 13.9% to 14%. However, there is still a lower proportion of disabled people in the civil service than in the economically active working age population of the UK (16%).

The number of officials who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or “other” went up in 2022. Of the one in seven officials who declared their sexuality on the stats survey, 6.1% identified as LGBO, up from 5.6% the year before. Unlike other underrepresented groups, this figure is higher in the SCS, with 6.7% of senior civil servants identifying as LGBO.

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