MORE than 1,500 companies have failed to report their gender pay gap figures before the deadline last week.

At East Hampshire District Council a woman’s mean hourly rate is 14.6 per cent lower than man’s, which is lower than the national average pay gap, at 18.4 per cent.

Women make up 46 per cent of higher-paid jobs and 73 per cent of lower-paid jobs at the district council, based in Petersfied.

Hampshire County Council’s gap is even larger – women’s mean hourly rate is 18.7 per cent lower.

But the gap in earnings is not the same issue as equal pay. The law says men and women doing the same job must be paid the same amount, which has been a legal requirement for all employers, big and small, for 47 years.

Under the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Equality Act 2010, employers cannot pay more or less based on sex. It is illegal.  

But on average, women still earn less than men.

This is due to working in lower paid jobs, favouring part-time roles, holding fewer top positions, taking time off for childbirth and a number of other factors. 

Whether it is, as Prime Minister Theresa May called it an example of ‘burning injustice’ or the result of gender preference remains up for debate. 

Some measures already address what is seen as the structural disadvantage females face. Equality of opportunity is the more popular long-term goal – the issue remains emotive and employers are keen to distance themselves from any accusations of sexism. 

All companies, charities and public sector bodies with more than 250 employees had to submit their gender pay figures before the deadline on April 4.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said 1,557 firms had missed the deadline and will be contacting them to remind them of their legal obligations. More than 10,000 firms published data, with in excess of 1,000 reporting on the last day.

The equalities watchdog will investigate firms failing to comply and could take legal action, with penalties including an unlimited fine.

More than three-quarters of UK companies pay men more on average than women, a BBC analysis of government figures suggested. The median pay gap among those companies was 9.7 per cent.

The figures indicate 78 per cent of firms pay men more than women on average, while 14 per cent pay women more. That is based on the median measure, which is the level of pay that separates the top half of earners from the lower half.

In total, only eight per cent said they had no pay gap between the sexes.

Hampshire County Council issued a statement highlighting its compliance with the law. It said: “The Government required public organisations with more than 250 employees to publish their gender-pay-gap figures and annually, from then onwards. The council is restricted in how it may present this information, and it is important to note the gender pay gap is not the same as equal pay.

“The council adheres to the principle of equal pay for all employees, irrespective of gender, and ensures it meets the requirements of the Equal Pay Act 1970.

“The gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across an organisation, or the labour market.

“On average (the mean figure), there is an 18.7 per cent pay difference between men and women working at the council, which is largely consistent with the national picture of 18.1 per cent, according to the EHRC.

“While women’s hourly rate is 18.7 per cent lower than men, this is not as a result of paying men more than women for the same or equivalent work. Council staff are paid the same for the same job, but the gender pay gap exists due to our workforce profile.

“The majority of our workforce is female, and this is most pronounced at the lower-pay grades.

“We continue to deliver services that other equivalent organisations have either outsourced or no longer provide, such as catering in schools – jobs to which typically more women than men apply. 

“At the same time, we have made good headway in supporting more women to progress to higher-grade jobs across the council – with women making up 54 per cent of senior managers within the organisation.”

The county’s police force was keen to reiterate the finer points of the data, stating: “Hampshire Constabulary is committed to the principle of equal pay for all employees, irrespective of gender, and ensures that it meets the requirements of the Equal Pay Act 1970.

“The force does have a gender pay gap of 10.7 per cent (mean average). This is not as a result of paying men more than women for the same or equivalent work. Our approach is aimed at achieving equality of pay and reward.

“While police officer pay is well-documented as being equal in terms of those at the same rank, the force has a number of police staff roles and uses the Towers-Watson job evaluation methodology to provide an objective and gender-neutral framework to evaluate these jobs.

“The force is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, and is working hard to increase the number of women in the police workforce, especially in relation to police officers and in specialist teams.”

A South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: “We believe in fairness and equality as both a provider of services and as an employer.

“Our gender pay gap results for 2017 will be a benchmark and will enable us to plan improvement and monitor progress moving forward.

“The results will now be studied by our working group who will carry out a deeper dive into the data and develop a meaningful action plan to address these, support female talent and reduce the pay gap.”

Women working for Surrey-based NHS trusts that treat patients from Hampshire fared worse however.

Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, where more than three-quarters of the staff are women, has a gender pay gap of 18.9 per cent average hourly earnings in favour of men.

And it is a similar story at Guildford’s Royal Surrey County Hospital where women are paid on average 29.2 per cent less than men per hour.