April 2019 is bang in the middle of gender pay gap season as everyone digests the 2018 snapshot data uploaded by over 10,500 organisations in the UK employing more than 250 employees. Due to my work on pay gaps, I am being asked a number of questions and what is gender pay gap data and how it can be interpreted. As more questions come in, I will update this post so please bookmark this for future reference and follow me on Twitter for alerts as to when this has happened.
The questions I have been asked are below. Please scroll down to the relevant section to find my answer.
- Where can I find gender pay gap data for a particular organisation?
- Do organisations who submit their data near or after the deadline have larger pay gaps than those that submit early?
- Why are gender pay gaps published by the Office of National Statistics different to what is submitted by the 10K+ organisations
Q1: Where can I find gender pay gap data for a particular organisation?
There are 3 good sources you can use and you can find links to all three in my post “Where I can find Gender Pay Gap data?”
Q2: Do organisations who submit their data near or after the deadline have larger pay gaps than those that submit early?
The short answer is no as can be seen in this chart. The only apparent effect is that up to 15th February, the median of the median gender pay gaps was near zero implying that the first 10% of submitters were better than the subsequent 90% who did not vary by submission date.
Q3: Why are gender pay gaps published by the Office of National Statistics different to what is submitted by the 10K+ organisations?
According to the data submitted on https://gender-pay-gap.service.gov.uk/ (which I will refer to as GPG Submissions) the median woman earned 90p in 2018 assuming the median man earned £1. But this is not the only source of data and gender pay gaps have in fact been tracked for longer by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) using a data series known as Annual Survey of Hours & Earnings (ASHE). ASHE says the median woman earned 82p in 2018 assuming the median man earned £1.
There are two reasons why there is an 8p difference between the two figures. The first is that they are measuring different things.
- GPG Submissions is a census of ORGANISATIONS employing 250 employees or more and relies on the employer to do the calculations (correctly) accounting for roughly a 1/3 of all employees in the UK. The employee level data is not made available and so an average of the national figure can be distorted by the fact that organisations differ in size. In practice such distortions appear to be minimal.
- ONS ASHE is a sample of EMPLOYEES with data taken from HMRC records and supplemented with further information from their employers. It attempts to be statistically balanced random sample of UK employees.
The second reason is to do with breakdowns offered by the dataset.
- GPG Submissions is by design a breakdown of Large Employers. No further breakdown by demographic variables is available e.g. age or type of job.
- ONS ASHE is broken down by salary, gender, age, occupation, number of hours worked, industry and location.
The top line gender pay gap reported by ONS ASHE is a national figure BEFORE any of the breakdowns apply. Once you start breaking down ONS ASHE by some of their options and then average across the breakdowns, a much smaller figure would emerge. For example, the gender pay gap is 9p for full time employees and -4p (favouring women) for part time roles. So averaging across these breakdowns would give you something like a 4p gender pay gap.
Since GPG submissions is already broken down by organisation, it is not possible to “unbreak it”to get an equivalent national figure. All we can do is average across organisations which is not the same thing.
Whilst the ONS reports its national figure, it’s recommendation though is to look at its breakdowns instead starting with the full time employees which currently has a 9p gap virtually the same as GPG submissions.
The bottom line is that the two figures are not really measuring the same thing but when you get under it, they are probably not contradicting each other.
— Want to know more about the gender pay gap? —
I have written a number of articles about the gender pay gap covering these topics:-
- What gender pay gap data tells us, what it doesn’t tell us and how it can be misused
- Three distinct errors that have been made by at least 10% of all organisations when submitting their gender pay gap data
- How to distinguish between a true pay gap and a pay gap that arises naturally due to the laws of chance
- My 12 steps to improve public confidence in gender pay gap data
- Calculate your gender pay gap by downloading my free spreadsheet calculator!
- Did the gender pay gap narrow in 2018?
- Frequently Asked Questions about gender pay gaps.
Finally visit my Twitter thread to see my comments on gender pay gaps in the media. Some notable ones are here.