UK companies failing at the gender pay gap

Pay up! easyJet, Savills, and Co-op are among 15 famous UK brands that have failed to fix their gender pay and bonus gap so far.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Public awareness of the gender pay gap is sharper than ever. But while the gulf between male and female wages across the UK has narrowed to 9.1%, momentum is stalling. In many sectors, such as aviation and finance, the disparity is actually widening.

In 2024, almost four out of five companies and public bodies are still paying men more than women. That includes household names, such as easyJet and Lloyds Bank, which have been criticised for their lacklustre evidence of addressing the imbalance.

Holding the most egregious employers accountable is crucial to ensure that progress does not stop. Using official gender pay statistics, let’s see who’s lagging behind in achieving pay equity this year.

UK companies where women earn less than men

Each year, under The Equality Act 2010, all UK companies with over 250 workers (classed as large businesses) must report on the gender pay gap within their teams. Some will also report on the Ethnicity Pay Gap, although this is not mandatory.

Every eligible business’ gender pay gap data is then published online for transparency. However, most of us don’t have the time to trawl through these endless, esoteric data sets.

That’s why we’ve done the leg work already. Based on the latest available data on the median hourly pay gap, published in April 2024, here are some of the most unequal employers from the UK’s best-known brands.

1. easyJet

Easyjet Airbus A320 251 at Madeira Airport, Madeira Island, Portugal

easyJet Airline Company Ltd. was first founded in 1995, but its latest pay gap data looks like something out of the 1960s. The airline’s wage gap means male employees earn 48.9% more per hour than female staff, thanks to its pilot workforce being dominated by men.

easyJet has tried to address the issue by launching the Amy Johnson Flying Initiative for women. As a result, 7.5% of easyJet pilots are women against an industry average of 6.5%.

But while the business insists that its gap is not the result of unequal pay, it is the worst offending airline in this list. Progress is going backwards; the hourly pay gap has grown by 1.6% since last year. Clearly, equal pay is one landing that easyJet can’t seem to stick.

2. Linnaeus

Pet owners might know Linnaeus Group Ltd. as the friendly face behind their local clinic. The group, which is owned by Mars, operates 59 primary care practices and 17 animal hospitals in the UK. Yet, for women, working at Linnaeus is far less welcoming.

Despite women holding a majority (eight out of nine) of Linnaeus’s board member positions, the company grapples with the largest median hourly pay gap in the sector at 47.5%. It’s not winning the fight, as its pay gap has increased by 0.3% since the previous year’s reporting period.

That said, Linnaeus is not an outlier. Four other care providers – the CVS Group, IVC Evidensia, and VetPartners – reported gaps of 40% or more in median hourly pay last year.

3. Savills

Savills UK Ltd. is perhaps the best known estate agent on the UK high street, and one of the few large employers in the property sector. It also stands out for its wide, median hourly gender pay gap of 38.7%.

While that figure can hardly be applauded, it is a slight decrease from 40.55% in 2022. This is likely due to the company growing the number of women employees in its upper quartile (the top earners) to 26%, up from 24% last year.

Still, women are underrepresented in senior roles at Savills. Just one out of the brand’s nine executive board members is female and the company reports a massive bonus pay gap. Payouts for male staff at Savills are 74% higher, on average, than for female colleagues.

4. British Airways

At British Airways (BA) PLC, women employees earn 37% less than men, on average; a dizzying height that even one of the airline’s planes might struggle to reach. It’s not hard to see the cause. Just 18% of earners in the firm’s top quartile are women.

In its 2023 gender pay gap report, a BA spokesperson said: “while there is much more work to do, we’re proud of the progress we’ve made so far.” That pride might be misplaced.

Between 2022 and 2023, the company’s median hourly pay gap actually widened by 5%. When it comes to eliminating the pay gap, in aviation terms, BA has barely left the runway.

5. Clydesdale Bank

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that finance is one of the most offensive industries for pay equality. Beating out all the traditional lenders is fintech giant, Clydesdale Bank, which was the worst sector performer in the published data.

At Clydesdale, women earn 34.6% less per hour than men, on average, and, while it self-describes as a ‘challenger’, the online bank has done little to address the issue. Since publishing its first gender pay report in 2017, that gap has improved by a meagre 2.3%.

The fella at the top seems to be doing alright, however. In February, the lender, which was acquired by Virgin Money in 2018, came under fire for the £1.3 million pay packet it awarded CEO David Duffy.

6. Lloyds Bank

Another bank that’s been slow off the mark to address gender pay is Lloyds Bank PLC. At this organisation, the published figures show women earn 37.4% less per hour. That’s a fall of 3.5% year-on-year, but Lloyds bankers shouldn’t pat themselves on the back just yet.

While the gap in hourly wages is narrowing, the bonus pay gap has grown by an astonishing 13.1% since 2022. In effect, executives are countering progress on equal base salaries by awarding bigger payouts to its top earners (63.5% of whom are men).

The gap could widen again next year. In April, the UK government officially removed limits on the amount that bankers can earn from year-end bonuses.

7. Jet2.com

Jet2.com Ltd. announced a 9% pay rise for staff last year, but that hasn’t done much to fix its dismal gender pay gap performance. In 2023, the government data shows that women earned 31.91% less per hour than men at the airline; an increase of 0.61% since 2022.

The discrepancy in payouts for male workers (who make up over 90% of the airline’s top quartile of earners) has also grown year-on-year, leading to a bonus pay gap of 11% in 2023 (up from 2.2% in 2022).

Like easyJet, Jet2.com previously pointed to the gender imbalance among pilots in the UK to explain away the uplift. It is less vocal this year, however. Jet2.com has not yet published its full 2023 pay gap report online; the first time in six years that a report has not materialised.

8. EDF Energy

Showcasing a median hourly pay gap of 31.7% in 2023, EDF Energy Ltd. surges to the top as the worst of the so-called ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers for gender pay parity. It would probably rather these results had been left in the dark.

EDF’s reported data, as shown in the government filing, shows that women employees earned 31.7% less than men in 2023. There is cause for celebration, however. That figure represents a narrowing of 4.5%; a sharp decline compared to others in this list.

Still, the party is short lived. Record oil prices led to soaring profits for EDF last year. As a result, the bonus pay gap rose by 4.7% as it rushed to reward its male-dominated board.

9. Barclays Bank

It’s Barclays turn under the banking gender pay gap spotlight. Female staff at Barclays Bank PLC earn 31.6% less per hour than male colleagues, though the bank has at least improved on 2022’s figure of 35%. Female participation in the top quartile of earners also grew by 1%.

Efforts must accelerate to close the gap completely, however. Like Lloyds, Barclays has seen a rise in the bonus pay gap of 2.5%, bringing the total difference in payouts to 60.7%.

CS Venkatakrishnan, Barclays Group chief executive, said: “I continue to be encouraged by the progress we have made to make Barclays a more inclusive place to work. We recognise there is more to do to achieve our goals, I am fully committed to making sure we get there.”

10. Govia Thameslink

Train strikes, delays, and cancellations mean the UK’s largest train operator Govia Thameslink Railway Ltd. (which oversees Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and the Gatwick Express) is not in the nation’s good books right now. Its public image is about to get worse.

Government data shows that the company pays its female staff 31.05% less per hour than male workers. Women constitute just 9.04% of all top-quartile earners at the business.

Tellingly, when executives at the company enjoyed a record dividend package of £62m last year, women staff members were left without a seat. On average, male employees at Govia Thameslink received 37.83% more in payouts than female.

UK companies with large bonus pay gaps

We’ve highlighted the companies with the biggest median hourly wage gap between men and women. However, another way the firms choose to compensate staff is through paying out bonuses — typically to key stakeholders and executives.

While base salaries may not show a disparity, year-end payouts can translate into a significant windfall for male executives — particularly in companies where men dominate the boardroom. Here are five famous companies with big bonus gaps:

1. The Co-operative Group

Co-operative Group (1)

  • Median bonus gap: 86.5%
  • Percentage of women on the board: 50%

It’s known as an ethical retailer. But while The Co-operative Group has a median pay gap of 7.5% for base salaries, the brand handed out far smaller bonuses to women employees.

2. The Range

  • Median bonus gap: 80.75%
  • Percentage of women on the board: 50%

Despite reporting no hourly pay gap in 2023, mega retailer The Range (owned by CDS Superstores) ruins its gender pay record by delivering much larger bonuses to male staff.

3. The Ivy

  • Median bonus gap: 80.2%
  • Percentage of women on the board: 20%

Troia (UK) Restaurants Limited are the owners of premium restaurant chain, The Ivy. In spite of a better than average hourly median wage gap of 3.3%, male workers dined out on much larger bonuses. This is of little surprise since only a fifth of the board are women.

4. Reed

  • Median bonus gap: 80.2%
  • Percentage of women on the board: 42%

Careers website Reed.com isn’t the most attractive proposition to female job hunters. Its low hourly median pay gap of 2.6% is marred by the huge discrepancy in bonus pay.

5. Dunelm

  • Median bonus gap: 79.8%
  • Percentage of women on the board: 42%

70% of Dunelm’s workforce are women, of whom just 7% are in executive or senior management roles. This explains why, despite an unremarkable 5.5% median gap in hourly pay for men and women, the retailer exhibits a much higher bonus inequality.

UK companies that have closed the gender pay gap

The above lists could leave any woman wondering: is there a single workplace in the UK where their paychecks will not be pinched?

Thankfully, there are. The government data also spotlights some well known players where there is no median hourly pay gap between men and women employees. We’ve highlighted them below.

1. B&M Bargains

Men and women employees earn the same amount per hour at B&M Bargains. Plus, the latter receive bonuses that are, on average, 125.7% more than those given to men. Bargain!

2. JD Sports Fashion PLC

JD Sports’ competitors have some big shoes to fill when it comes to equal pay. 52% of employees are women and both sexes earn the same amount per hour at the retailer. Plus, the latter also earn 34% more than male colleagues in bonuses, on average.

3. H&M

H&M consistently ranks as one of the UK’s top employers for gender equality, with women representing 70% of its workforce in 2022. There’s no wage or bonus pay gap, alongside equal board representation for women, creating a good look for the fashion retailer.

4. Lidl Great Britain

Lidl GB reported no bonus or hourly pay gap for its 30,588 staff members last year. The supermarket also raised pay in March, bringing salaries in line with the new Living Wage.

5. Greene King

As if Brits needed another reason to love the pub. Greene King employs over 20,000 workers and pays men and women equally (although the former will earn 2.33% more in bonuses, on average).

Gender pay gap Hall of Shame: our analysis

Various factors can contribute to the gender pay gap. But there is little defence for the extreme discrepancies observed within the above list, which includes industry leaders and household names.

Paying workers fairly is the bare minimum an employer can do. In a Startups survey, 71% of UK SMEs said they would be able to raise wages in 2024 to meet employee demands and the new minimum wage. If they can do it, why can’t a multi-million pound bank?

Truthfully, most large businesses have the resources to close the gender pay gap. What some lack is the desire to do so. In 2023, according to the CIPD, 17% of eligible companies did not produce a gender pay gap report, despite being legally required to do so.

Meaningful progress requires stronger accountability. The government should implement consequences for companies that shirk their reporting obligations.

On top of this, male-controlled boardrooms must open the door to more female leaders, and bonus equality needs prioritising among executives.

Without these measures, the companies that are combating workplace sexism are outliers. Reaching gender parity will remain a distant prospect, measured in decades, not years.

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Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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