Proportion of female high earners unchanged in six years

gender pay gap

The proportion of UK female high earners has not changed for the past six years, despite initiatives to shrink the pay gap between men and women, according to new research.

The Independent reports that only one in four people earning between £43,000 and £150,000 in each of the last six financial years were women or 1.19 million out of 4.41 million in the last tax year, research from global law firm Clyde & Co found.

The data points that total number of higher-rate tax payers in the UK has grown by almost one million during the period even though the proportion of UK female high earners remained static.

“The stubborn refusal of the percentage of female high earners to shift upwards will disappoint those who hoped a recent focus on the gender gap would make a significant difference to the number of women in senior positions,” Heidi Watson, employment partner at Clyde & Co, said.

The research comes as British companies prepare to make public the difference between what their male and female employees earn with early reports from a handful of companies revealing pay gaps as high as 36 per cent.

Fund manager Schroders became the first FTSE 100  to reveal in a remuneration report that pay for female staff was 33 per cent lower on average. Virgin Money disclosed that men who work at the bank earn, on average, 36 per cent more than women.

All companies will be required to publish the results of their pay-gap analysis on their websites by April 2018. Those who fail to comply in time for the deadline, will be contacted by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

But Ms Watson said the new legislation “lacks teeth”.

“The expectation is that gender pay reporting will start to make an impact in the next few years.  However, there have been concerns that the new legislation lacks teeth as businesses that fail to report their gender pay figures will not face any sanctions and those that report particularly bad gender pay figures will simply be ‘named and shamed’,” Ms Watson said.

Gina Wilson, employment partner at Clyde & Co, added: “On the face of it ‘naming & shaming’ can appear to be a fairly impotent punishment. But the reputational risk is huge. Companies who report better figures, or show that they are improving, stand to gain a competitive advantage when looking to hire top female talent.

“It’s important to remember that as well as reputational damage, the Equality and Human Rights Commission can take its usual enforcement action against employers who are proven to be in breach of the Equality Act, which can in theory ultimately lead to criminal proceedings.”