Chair's Blog: Gender pay gap

Chair’s Blog 18/05/2016

Why is it that nearly 50 years after the Equal Pay Act we still have huge gaps in the pay of men and women? The gender pay gap reform is part of our pay claim this year.


The gender pay gap across higher education (HE) equates to a shortfall of £6,103 per year for each female academic. In total, this difference in average pay is a gender pay gap of £528 million per year. The total salary spend on female academics is £1.3 billion less than it is for male academics. Please note also the majority of hourly paid staff are women.


There are plenty of fine words spoken at a national level about the need to investigate the issue, but little meaningful action. In higher education, the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES) pay agreement 2006-09 strongly recommended that equal pay reviews be carried out in each HE institution within 12 months of implementing the framework agreement for the modernisation of HE pay structures and periodically thereafter. This was reiterated in JNCHES guidance issued in 2013. It specifies that any review should analyse employees’ total earnings (including base pay, contribution pay and pay related benefits such as leave) for any disparities under any of the protected groups; diagnose the reasons for anything found and take actions to address these. This guidance also explicitly recommends full involvement of the recognised trade unions in both the review and any subsequent actions identified as necessary.

From other reports, it is clear that many employers are not even carrying out equal pay reviews. Of equal concern is that of those employers that do, too many are failing to commit to solid steps to actually close the gender pay gap. This is why UCU and 4 other unions have made the gender pay gap a part of the annual pay claim this year.

Then there is the issue of casualisation of staff. We might think it is ‘not so bad where I work’ (and management have told your UCU officers that they do not intend to increase casualization of the academic workforce at Northumbria University) However, our VC did earn 7.3 x all staff salaries for 2014/15. His personal expenses were not declared, the value of his accommodation is marked n/a, Management consultancy expenditure was not reported, and the total number of employees earning more than £100K was stated to be 16. Meanwhile HR are reluctant to implement a perfectly good agreement UCU have with them to transfer hourly paid onto permanent fractional staff when they should. Is this in the spirit of their claim?

Julia Charlton

Branch Chair