Equal pay and the gender pay gap

  • 24 Feb 2021

A yawning gender pay gap favouring men has been revealed in recent years by media companies forced to publish data under new regulations.

Fighting for equal pay

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Any organisation with 250 or more employees must publish and report specific figures about their gender pay gap.

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average earnings of men and women, expressed relative to men's earnings. Employers must publish their gender pay gap data and a written statement on their company websites and report their data to government online – using the gender pay gap reporting service.

Enforcement of gender pay gap reporting, implemented in 2017, was suspended at the eleventh hour in March 2020 due to the uncertainty thrown up by the Covid-19 crisis. In February 2021, the NUJ joined the TUC, equality campaigners and industry leaders in calling for urgent action to prevent the UK's gender pay gap reporting being shelved for a second year.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission announced on 23 February that enforcement action against employers failing to report their gender pay gap will start on 5 October 2021.

The union is encouraging all chapels to:

  • table meetings about the gap,
  • draw up action plans with employers and
  • ensure proper equality impact assessments are done ahead of any covid-related cuts, job losses, restructures, etc.


Previous years:

A 2019 analysis showed that almost a third of UK media companies had seen their gender pay gaps increase (in favour of men) on the year before. The Economist Group remained the UK media company with the highest median gender pay gap, with women on average paid 29.2 per cent less per hour than men.

A 2018 analysis by Press Gazette showed 91 per cent of UK-based media companies paid men more than women on average, based on the mean hourly rate, and 85 per cent paid men more in mean bonus pay. At Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue, GQ and Vanity Fair, the women's mean hourly rate was 36.9 per cent, meaning women there earned 63p for every £1 that men earned (median 23.3 per cent). The Telegraph and Economist were also among the worst offenders.

Employers are not required to publish an explanation of the gap nor reveal an action plan outlining how they intend to narrow it. The gender pay gap regulations do not require employers to identify where women are doing work of equal value to men, but are not paid the same.

According to the PR and Communications Census, produced by the PR and communications body, PRCA, in association with PRWeek, the gender pay gap in the industry has grown from 17.8 per cent in 2016 to 21 per cent and is the equivalent of £11,364 – or £2,253 more than it was two years ago. The widening gap comes despite the 7 per cent increase in female MDs since 2016.

Improvements to gender pay gap reporting requirements

The NUJ has called for a number of changes to the gender pay gap auditing requirements:

03 October 2018
Eight ways to understand your gender pay gap

The gender pay gap (GPG) data that you have reported provides a basic understanding of what the gender pay balance looks like within your organisation...

05 March 2019

Disability and ethnicity pay gaps

An Equality and Human Rights Commission report, Measuring and reporting on disability and ethnicity pay gaps, showed the ethnicity pay gap was 5.7 per cent and the commission called on the Office for National Statistics to provide more data and guidance for ethnic minority and disability monitoring.

It also demanded the government require all employers with more than 250 employees to monitor and report on ethnicity and disability in recruitment, retention and progression in the workplace by April 2020 and provide an action plan for ending any pay gap. Very few employers (3 per cent) publish data on their ethnicity or disability pay gaps.

NUJ action

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The gender pay gap figures revealed so far for news organisations and broadcasters make for very sober reading.
"They show the benefit of having greater transparency to combat unfair wages and the exploitation of women in the workplace. The fact that companies are forced to reveal the true respective positions of men and women in their workforce has shed a light on pay inequity, a scourge in the media industry.
"Women are realising in many workplaces that they have been short-changed and, with the NUJ's support, are setting about righting that wrong. The NUJ is now providing information to reps so they can challenge their employers and work with them to reduce the pay gap and set up workplace and recruitment policies to help women win promotion and get the pay they deserve. We are calling on companies to appoint more women to their boards."

When the BBC was first forced to publish the salaries of those who earned more than £150,000, only one-third of the list (which did not include people who work for the corporation, but are paid through independent companies) were women and only 10 of the 96 were non-white. It soon became clear that many women were being paid less than their male counterparts and the NUJ has dealt with almost 150 claims of unequal pay.

This greater transparency forced upon companies has proved useful for unions to challenge employers on their gender pay gap and seek to work with them to eliminate it. Even If your company has fewer than 250 employees, your NUJ chapel should ask management to make the information available.

A chapel has the right to ask a company to provide figures on the different gender pay gaps by workforce, by pay grade, job description, in starting salaries, by ethnicity, using both the median and the mean, and also to measure the full-time and part-time gaps separately. The NUJ is encouraging chapels to organise pay audits to provide them with their own information on pay.

Ending the gender pay gap a4 poster

Ending the gender pay gap recruitment poster.

15 November 2018
Rhoi Terfyn ar y Bwlch Cyflog Rhwng y Rhywiau a4 poster

Rhoi Terfyn ar y Bwlch Cyflog Rhwng y Rhywiau (Ending the gender pay gap) recruitment poster.

15 November 2018

Recruitment resources

UK law

The Equality Act 2010 gives men and women the right to be paid the same for carrying out:

  • Like Work – work that is the same or broadly similar
  • Work Rated as Equivalent – under a job evaluation study
  • Work of Equal Value – equal work in terms of the demands made on both the claimant and comparator by reference to factors such as effort, skill and decision-making.

In the case of a female complainant, she would need identify a male comparator who is, or who she suspects is, being paid more for doing like work, work rated as equivalent or work of equal value (or in the case of a man, a female comparator).

Resounding NUJ victory in landmark equal pay case

This outcome should also be a wake-up call for all employers.

10 January 2020
“Amazing” judgment backs Samira’s equal pay claim

BBC presenter Samira Ahmed told the TUC Women’s conference how the NUJ won her case when she found a male colleague was paid six times more than her.

09 March 2020

TUC guidance

The latest TUC Equality Audit provides some great examples of union campaigns and collective bargaining, which have led to the gender pay gap being narrowed:

TUC Equality Audit 2018
  • 11 Sep 2018
  • Publications

The TUC's gender pay gap reporting guide gives more information on the regulations and tips for unions when negotiating with employers, pay bargaining strategies and a checklist of the elements required for a good pay system:

The NUJ has written some media employers to ask them for an explanation of their gender pay figures and what they intend to do, but the gender pay gap is an ideal issue for any chapel to raise with its employer to discuss and to make a recruitment issue.

An analysis of official statistics published by the TUC shows the gender pay gap is at its widest when a woman hits 50, when the average woman working full-time will earn £8,421 a year less than the average full-time working man.

News & resources 

BBC survey shows an “unhappy” staff

The BBC has reduced its workforce by more than 1,200, equivalent to 6 per cent, according to its annual report 2020/21. 

06 July 2021
DM 2021: Wages, payments and conditions

The union's conference pledges to fight for various improvements for NUJ members.

22 May 2021
DM2021: Freelance

Survey on pay. Guidance on preparing invoices. Campaign on freelance rights in Ireland.

21 May 2021
International Women's Day 2021

IWD celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Today, the NUJ's women explain why female leaders in the industry c...

08 March 2021

More gender pay gap news & resources

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