DCMS posts largest gender pay gap in government

Other tech-focused entities, including Cabinet Office and HMRC’s in-house IT firm, post single-digit differences

Credit: ibreak stock

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has the greatest difference of any major government department in average earnings for men and women.

But, despite still having the greatest pay gap as of the end of 2018/19 at 16.6%, DCMS has made progress since the previous year, when the figure stood at 22.9%.

A clutch of transparency reports has shown that while gender pay gaps are lower than the national average at all of the 18 largest central departments, half still pay their female staff 10% less than their male staff.

And while most ministries have made progress on closing their pay gaps in the last two years, gaps widened at five of the 18 central ministries between 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The reports showed the pace of change has varied considerably. Most notably, the Department for Transport has cut its pay gap considerably since 2016-17, from 22.6% to 13.8% over the two-year period. In the last year, BEIS has reduced its gender pay gap by nearly four percentage points, and HMRC has squeezed its pay differential from 12.8% to 9.3%.

“The progress we have seen is simply too slow; it’s unacceptable that the gender pay gap is increasing in some departments”
Victoria Jones, FDA

The disparity was even lower – 8.4% – at RCDTS Ltd, the in-house IT provider owned by the tax agency. This compares with a 14% pay gap in the prior year.

The Cabinet Office, which is home to the 800 staff of the Government Digital Service, showed a differential of 8.8% in the newly released data – down from 10.7% a year ago.

DWP leads the way
The reports were released as part of a drive to increase transparency on gender pay.

All organisations with more than 250 employees must now publish reports on their gender pay gap, which refers to the difference in overall average pay between men and women across all levels of the organisation rather than disparities in pay for specific jobs. Across the whole of the UK, the median gender pay gap was 18.1% in 2018-19, according to the Office for National Statistics.

As with last year, only the Department for Work and Pensions had no gender pay gap. However, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government came close with a pay gap of just 0.4% in the core department. The Department for Education had the third-lowest pay disparity, at 5.3%.

At the other end of the scale, DCMS was closest to the national average. The Ministry of Justice and the Home Office followed, with 15.9% and 14.6% respectively – and the pay gap had widened slightly at both departments since the previous year.

Rounding out the top five were DfT, at 13.8%, and the Department for Exiting the European Union, at 13.6%.

Also tipping over the 10% mark were the Department for International Trade, the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Foreign Office.

Most departments attributed pay variation to having a higher proportion of men in senior levels, or a higher proportion of women in more junior grades.

Victoria Jones, equalities officer at the FDA union, said it was “unacceptable” that the pay gap had increased in some departments.

“In 2020 we are still not seeing significant progress across the board, and the progress we have seen is simply too slow. It’s unacceptable that the gender pay gap is increasing in some departments,” she said.

She said departments must “commit to investing in their pay structures to remove inequality, address the lack of development opportunities for women and create meaningful action plans as a priority”.

A DCMS spokesperson said the department was “closing the gender pay gap and improving gender diversity” and had followed recommendations made by the Government Equalities Office as well as its own strategy.

In 2018-19, close to two-thirds of internal promotions went to women, and since last April the pay gap in the department – which will be officially published next year – has fallen to less than 6%, the spokesperson added.


Sam Trendall

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