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Gender pay

4 May 2016

People doing the same job or work of equal value should get the same or equal pay; but in many cases they don't, even though though the law says they should.

Closing the gender pay gap

Following a study that found women at London School of Economics earned 10.5% less than men with similar experience and output, female academics are set to be given salary increases aimed at redressing the gender pay gap at the institution.

This follows University of Essex's decision to move its female professors up three pay points to bring average salaries in line with male counterparts.

In January 2020 ambitious plans to eliminate the gender pay gap were agreed between the UCU at the University of Bristol. The deal is the culmination of 18 months of negotiations, and will see a series of measures introduced to tackle gender pay inequality at Bristol, including increased opportunities for progression for women and for flexible or job share working, plus funding for pilot schemes to allow research staff to continue working at the university between grants.

Definition of equal pay

Employers must give men and women equal treatment in the terms to conditions of their employment contract if they are employed to do:

  • 'like work' - work that is the same or broadly similar
  • work rated as equivalent under a job evaluation scheme
  • work found to be of equal value in terms of effort, skill or decision making.

Current pay gap

Although equal pay legislation has been in place for over 40 years, the gender pay gap in Britain remains the highest in the European Union.

In 2018 university leaders came under fire after the first official gender pay gap data showed that women in UK universities were paid a mean hourly wage that was, on average, 15.9 per cent lower than their male colleagues..

Analysis by Times Higher Education in early 2019 shows that figure has changed little, with it now standing at 15.1 per cent. The median average gap, which tends to reduce the effect of outliers, was 14.8 per cent for 2018, widening from 14 per cent the previous year. Of the 228 higher education institutions to have published data for the 2018 year, 46 were shown to have widened their gap since the first reporting exercise.

In November 2020 UCU reiterated its call for universities to make addressing the gender pay gap a priority in higher education after the release of a new report, 'Mind the (graduate gender) pay gap', by the Higher Education Policy Institute.

You can read our earlier reports on the pay gap in further and higher education here:

Reasons for the pay gap

There are many reasons why the gender pay gap exists, including discrimination against women in the workplace, discrimination in pay systems, the value placed on work predominantly undertaken by women and interrupted careers. Equal pay issues can be compounded by the lack of fair job evaluation schemes, no application of the principles of the Framework Agreement (in HE) and non-compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Women members - what next

Information If you are a UCU member and think you have a claim or want to discuss it further please email Jenny Lennox.

Women members will want to know if and why they are being paid less than their male colleagues. Questions need to be asked about how pay is determined and if the employer can justify the gaps in base pay. Here are links and information to get you started:

Getting equal pay - questions that might help [119kb]

Public sector equality duties toolkit [161kb]

JNCHES equal pay reviews guidance [382kb] - This guidance sets out what HEIs need to do to meet their obligations with regard to equal pay and the gender pay gap. It also outlines the different obligations that exist in the four nations of the UK. It should be the basis for the discussions you have with your employers about they begin to tackle the underlying reasons for the gender pay gap.

Guidance for equal pay in FE (in England) and the checklist for carrying out equal pay reviews [35kb]

FE joint agreement on guidance on equality [520kb]

AoC: analysing the gender pay gap - toolkit for colleges, Dec 16 [636kb]

Gender pay gap branch bargaining guidance: please log in to access this document.

Gender pay gap report 2014-15: please log in to access this document.

Holding down women's pay

UCU league table of top 30 colleges and universities with the worst gender pay inequalities:  Holding down women's pay, updated Apr 16 [116kb]

Gender pay gap badge Mind the gap

4cm round white buttons, featuring the mind the gap design and the UCU logo. Badge pin fastening. Please contact Martin Whelton to order stocks for your branch campaign.

Last updated: 8 May 2024