PCS slams civil service’s ‘institutionalised gender pay gap’

Trade union chief says report shows woman are still waiting for pay equality, 64 years after it was first promised

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By Richard Johnstone

06 Mar 2019

Government departments with a majority of female civil servants pay staff at most grades less than colleagues in departments with predominately male workforces who are doing the same job, research for the PCS trade union has found.

An analysis for the union found divided departments and civil service grades into majority male (with less than 40% female employees) and majority female (with more than 60% female staff). It found an executive officer in a majority male department is paid £3,771, or 13%, more than the equivalent in a majority female department. Likewise, an executive officer in a majority male department is paid £2,675 (12.6%) more than the same post in a majority female department.

Departments which have a majority of women include the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Courts and Tribunal Service, and departments with a majority of men include the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and Defence Equipment and Support.


The percentage differential is largest at the lower administrate and executive officer roles. It falls to 5.7% for senior and higher executive officers, and 0.9% at SCS level. Grade 6 and 7 civil servants in female dominated departments actually have a slightly higher average wage (2.6%) than those in majority male departments.

This puts the effect of gendered pay differentials in some grades above the median gender pay gap calculated across the whole of the civil service, which stood at 12.2% in 2018, down from 12.7% in 2017.

The PCS report produced by Dr Mark Williams, a senior lecturer in human resource management at the University of Surrey, also examined a department that was dominated by neither majority male nor female staff. Civil servants in the male dominated departments earned on average 5.7% more than those in the more gender balanced department at administrative grades. The gap was 13% more for executive posts, 3.6% for SEO and HEO roles, and 1.4% at the SCS. Again, the report found a slight pay advantage at grades 6 and 7 in the gender balanced department, at 3.5%

The difference in median pay between female-dominated and male-dominated grades “is unlikely due to just the fact that there might be more variation in pay across departments in lower-paying grades”, according to the review.

Williams found that the variation in median pay across departments for executive officers and administrative officers and assistants, without the departmental gender balance analysis, is comparable to other grades. “This implies median pay is systematically lower in highly feminised department-grades,” he said.

The data has been published ahead of International Women’s Day on Friday. Speaking at the Women’s Trades Union Congress conference today, PCS general secretary and TUC president Mark Serwotka said that “64 years after women in the civil service were promised equal pay, they are still waiting.”

This is a reference to Conservative chancellor Rab Butler's pledge in January 1955, that there would be pay equality in the ‘non-industrial’ civil service by 1 January 1961.

Delegating pay beneath the senior civil service to departments had effectively “institutionalised the gender pay gap for staff”, Serwotka said.

“Our analysis is a damning indictment of the delegated pay system, which has enabled departments with a majority of female employees, or majority female grades, to pay less than departments and grades which have men in the majority.

 “In health and local government there are single pay systems covering millions of public sector workers. But in the civil service, for the last 20 years, pay determination has been delegated to government departments. This has created the environment ripe for pay inequality, hundreds of different pay systems, which pay more or less to employees doing the same or comparable jobs.”

He called for the return of national pay bargaining in the civil service, as well as reiterating the union’s calls for a “decent pay rise across the board to give justice to our members”.

The union is currently balloting its estimated 120,000 members for strike action on pay over the summer.

Responding to the report, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "The overall civil service gender pay gap continues to narrow and we remain committed to balancing out wages at all levels of government to become the most inclusive employer in the UK by 2020.”

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