Civil service gender pay gap narrows – but Cabinet Office bucks the trend

Departmental champion Elizabeth Gardiner dubs latest figures “incredibly disappointing” for second year running
Photo: Adobe Stock

By Jim Dunton

04 Dec 2023

The difference between the average hourly earnings of male and female civil servants narrowed to 9.6% in the year to March but it is still greater than it was in 2020-21, transparency data has revealed.

The median gender pay gap widened for the first time in six years in 2021-22, showing men in the civil service earned 11.3% more than women. While the 2022-23 figures are a step in the right direction, they are significantly above the 8.1% figure of two years ago.

The Department for Work and Pensions declared a 0% pay gap for 2022-23 – a repeat of the previous year’s snapshot. But the Cabinet Office – which is responsible for both Civil Service HR and the Equality Hub – saw its median gender pay gap increase to 20.2%.

Cabinet Office gender champion Elizabeth Gardiner said the increase of 3.6 percentage points on last year’s figure was “incredibly disappointing” in her department's just-published gender pay report. It is the same phrase she used to describe the 2021-22 rise to 16.6%.

Gardiner again blamed an underrepresentation of women in more senior grades, with a decrease in representation compared to the previous year.

“The deteriorating figures for this year require more detailed analysis and liaison with colleagues across the department, particularly in the professional groups,” she said.

“Along with more targeted interventions, we must take evidence-based action to ensure we are focusing on creating a more inclusive working environment; attracting and retaining the best talent irrespective of gender, race or background and operating as a good, modern employer.”

Of the main central government departments, the Treasury posted the next-largest gender pay gap to the Cabinet Office, on 14.3% – down 2.8 percentage points year-on-year.

HM Revenue and Customs had a median gender pay gap of 13.9%, up 1.3 percentage points on 2021-23.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate, which is an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs posted the civil service’s single-biggest median pay gap: 33.1%.

It was closely followed by Scotland’s Vehicle Certification Agency on 30.3%, the Wales Office on 27.2%, the Crown Prosecution Service on 26.4% and the UK Debt Management Office, which is an executive agency of HM Treasury, on 23.5%

The Food Standards Agency is one of a handful of parts of government where median hourly pay for women is higher than for men. It posted a gender pay gap of -16.2%.

FDA assistant general secretary Lucille Thirlby said the departmental reports have exposed a pay system that is unfit for purpose.

“With median salaries at each grade falling in real terms by between 12% and 23% since 2010, civil service pay is broken and these gender pay gap figures show women are among those bearing the brunt of this,” she said.

“The civil service needs to grasp the nettle and urgently reform its pay systems. Reducing the gender pay gap should be a priority for every civil service employer.”

Thirlby said HR professionals specialising in equality, diversity and inclusion were “vital” to helping civil service employers enact change to reduce gender pay gaps.

But she said measures in last month’s Autumn Statement about considering “streamlining” equality, diversity and inclusion training and HR processes showed “what little value this government places on these issues”.

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