The proportion of UK female high earners has remained static for the past six years, despite the widespread drive to increase the number of women in senior positions, according to research from global law firm Clyde & Co.
Data obtained directly from HMRC reveals that women accounted for just over one quarter (27%) of all higher rate tax payers (tax payers declaring an income between £43,001 and £150,000) in each of the last six financial years. Last tax-year 1.19m of the 4.41m higher rate tax payers were women.
Clyde & Co points out that the percentage of female high earners in the UK has not changed for six years, even though the total number of higher-rate tax payers in the UK has grown by almost one million in that period. However, that number has fallen for the first time in seven years this year.
Heidi Watson, Employment Partner at Clyde & Co, says: “The stubborn refusal of the percentage of female high earners to shift upwards will disappoint those who hoped a recent focus on the gender gap would make a significant difference to the number of women in senior positions.”
There have been various initiatives by employers and the government to address the earnings gap. The latest is the introduction of gender pay audits. Despite fears that the audits lack teeth, Gina Wilson, Employment Partner at Clyde & Co, said that naming and shaming companies over their gender pay figures might seem “a fairly impotent punishment”, but that the reputational risk was huge. She said: “Companies who report better figures, or show that they are improving, stand to gain a competitive advantage when looking to hire top female talent. It’s important to remember that as well as reputational damage, the Equality and Human Rights Commission can take its usual enforcement action against employers who are proven to be in breach of the Equality Act, which can in theory ultimately lead to criminal proceedings.”
Businesses with over 250 employees have to report their gender pay figures by next April, but Clyde & Co says they should be taking steps now to analyse their April 2017 data so that they can take remedial steps before the publication deadline.
Wilson added: “For those yet to report, it is advisable to look at how other businesses that have already released their data have presented it. In most cases, the best way will be to provide as much information as possible with any gaps explained and efforts to close it outlined.”
Clyde & Co points out that the Government has now set up a ‘beta’ version of the website on which employers’ gender pay gap information should be published. It allows employers and employees to compare gender pay gap information with their competitors.