According to the CBI, it is not only morally right that employers should treat women equally over issues such as pay and promotion, it also makes total business sense.

“The business case for equality is watertight and gender pay reporting must act as a catalyst for change”, Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn said.

She was speaking ahead of the Government’s second gender pay gap reporting deadline on 4 April 2019 with early results showing that, while 1422 companies have said that they pay women more, men are at an advantage in 8113 firms.

Women still face pay gaps in every industry ranging from 97p for each pound earned by the average man in health and social work, to 80p in the education sector and 76p in construction.

Overall, according to analysis of the figures by the BBC, although the median pay gap in favour of men has fallen slightly (from 9.7% in 2018 to 9.6% this year), fewer than half the UK's biggest employers have succeeded in narrowing their gender pay gap.

The three large companies with the biggest gaps were Countrywide Services at 60.6% (down from 63.4% in 2018), Independent Vetcare 48.3% (from 50.5%) and Easyjet 47.9% (up from 45.5%).

By law, all companies, charities and public sector departments with 250 employees or more must publish their gender pay gap figures.

Many of the companies with the biggest gaps favouring men were multi-academy trusts and independent schools, according to analysis by The Guardian. It found that Wigston Academies Trust, which runs two schools in Leicestershire, had one of the largest gender pay gaps of any public sector organisation, with women paid 69% less on average than men.

According to the CBI, however, the situation will improve.

“Some of the practical action companies are taking — like setting themselves stretching targets —are having an immediate and positive impact”, Ms Fairbairn pointed out.

However, she cautioned, other important steps, such as helping more women enter male-dominated sectors, will make pay gaps bigger in the short term.

The CBI has also called for publicly reported action plans to be mandatory — “not as a tick box exercise, but as a genuine way to find different approaches that work for different challenges”.

Comment by Pay and Reward Manager at Croner, Clare Parkinson

With the publication deadline for 2019’s reports from the private sector having passed and the latest figures now available, employers are reminded of the scrutiny that continues to be placed on the gender pay gap.

Although there is currently no obligation on eligible companies to publish narratives over how they intend to tackle the gap, it is highly advisable that they do so. It should be remembered that their latest results can be viewed both internally and externally and may have a significant impact on company reputation.

By clearly outlining how they intend to work against the gap, companies can demonstrate they are aware of this issue and want to help female employees succeed within their organisation.

This can be useful in attracting and retaining talented individuals within a company and ultimately encourage its continued development.

Last reviewed 10 April 2019