All the worst excuses from the pay-gap reports
Photo: Getty Images


All the worst excuses from the pay-gap reports

More than 10,000 companies have reported their pay-gap figures, along with some unbelievable excuses…

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By Emily Baker on

Yesterday marked the deadline for UK companies with over 250 employees to report their gender pay gap stats to the government. While the deadline had been set since April 2017, many companies – including Apple and Ryanair – didn’t reveal their data until the last week, if not the last day, and 1,500 companies failed to report data altogether. Unsurprisingly for women, eight in 10 companies pay men more than they pay women and there is an overall median pay gap of 9.8 per cent in the UK.

Along with the all-important numbers came explanations and justifications for paying men more than women. From excluding whole sectors of the business from the data to blaming women’s need to work part-time, here are the best (read: worst) excuses:

We have more women in lower-paid positions

Well done, you’ve identified the problem! Most companies used this as an “explanation” for their gender pay gap, including L’Oreal, Tesco and basically anywhere women work on a shop floor. Arcadia, which has a median gap of 2.5 per cent, stressed that the pay gap between sales assistants – which account for 75 per cent of the workforce – is less than one per cent. The company didn’t feel the need to detail the pay gap in the higher-paid quartiles of the business.

We have more men in higher-paid positions

See above – if you think this is a good enough reason for a gender pay gap, you need to hire more women. Here’s looking at you Greater Manchester Police, Greene King, Google and a lot of other companies not beginning with a G. Special shout-out to Coca-Cola here, who employ more men than women in their manufacturing operations because “we have a significant number of highly technical and shift-based roles which attract a pay premium”.

The award for the worst excuse of all goes to British Airways, who blame their pay gap of 10 per cent on the fact that pilot’s salaries were included in the data

Women don’t apply for these jobs

The award for the worst excuse of all goes to British Airways, who blame their pay gap of 10 per cent on the fact that pilot’s salaries were included in the data. The airline’s gap favours women by one per cent when you ignore all the pilots – 94 per cent of which are men – so, everything is fine, right? It’s a trend across the industry as just eight of the 554 pilots at Ryanair are women, giving the company a staggering pay gap of 71.8 per cent. BT, who have a gap of 5.2 per cent, face a similar problem with the lack of women in engineering roles, saying, “With our company roots firmly in engineering and technology, it is perhaps unsurprising that there are more men than women in the business.” Credit where it’s due, though – both BT and British Airways have set out plans to attract more women into under-represented roles.  

Women work part-time

Yes, Tesco – with your pay gap of 8.7 per cent – this is true, but maybe you could have a think about why that might be? Women are more likely than men to be responsible for childcare, and women are more likely to be carers than men – have you thought about how many of your female employees, 73 per cent of whom work part-time, might be single mothers? Tesco’s bonus scheme is directly related to the number of hours staff work and, thanks to their penchant for working fewer hours, women lose out to men here, too – the supermarket has a bonus pay gap of 27 per cent. It’s the same story over at everyone’s favourite budget pub chain J D Wetherspoons, which claims its 2.5 per cent pay gap is due to women working fewer hours – as well as having more men in high-paid roles, of course.

We employ loads of women in high-earning roles, what’s the issue?

So, why do you have an outrageous pay gap of 54.5 per cent, Phase Eight? Eighty-eight per cent of employees who received an internal promotion in the last year at the fashion company were women, and women make up 99.7 per cent of the top-paid quartile in retail. In fact, women make up the majority of every single pay grade in retail at Phase Eight, with just 0.3 per cent of each quartile’s workforce comprising of men (excluding, of course, the lowest which is occupied by women only). In their report, Phase Eight are very keen to get across the idea that their pay gap results do not reflect the “true story and culture” of the business. Sure, because maths never lies. At Conde Nast – the publisher responsible for Vogue, Tatler, GQ, Glamour and many other glossy, up-market magazines – it looks like women run the show, with 63 per cent of the top-paid jobs held by female employees. But, with a median pay gap of 23.3 per cent, it looks like the top top jobs go to men. Great!

At last calculation, the World Economic Forum predicted that women will have to wait 217 years before the gender pay gap closes around the world. But, if businesses keep excusing themselves rather than getting on with solving the problem, we might be waiting just a little while longer.


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