Government departments released figures this week showing that gender pay gap has grown in seven of the 17 main Whitehall departments, with the Treasury being the worst-performing.
The median hourly wage for women at the Treasury was 16.8% lower than men’s (up from 14.6% last year). Other poorly performing departments included the Department for Education where it was 7.9% (up from 5.3% last year) and at the Cabinet Office, where it was 14.5% lower than men’s (up from 8.8%).
In March, because of the Covid crisis, women and equalities minister Liz Truss suspended the legislation that forces businesses to report the gender difference in salaries between their employees.
Baroness Morgan of Cotes, the former women and equalities secretary, has called for the reintroduction of the requirements after the release of the latest Whitehall figures.
Equal pay issues
She said: “2020 has been an extraordinary year. But if we’re going to build back better, bringing the gender pay gap down has got to be part of that, and that’s got to apply to government.”
The performance of Truss’s own Department for International Trade (DIT) led Marsha de Cordova, the shadow women and equalities secretary, to say there were “serious questions about the government’s commitment to closing the gender pay gap”.
She added: “It raises serious questions about the government’s commitment to closing the gender pay gap when the department run by the minister for women and equalities is so clearly going backwards when it comes to average pay and bonuses.”
The DIT had the second worst gender pay gap in Whitehall. Bonuses earned by men were 7.3% higher than women, up from 2.5%, and female employees at the department earned on average 15.9% less than their male colleagues. The median pay gap had also widened since last year, when Truss too over, when women were paid 12.5% less.
Across government as a whole, however, the gender pay gap shrunk from 11.1% to 10.5%. The Department for Work and Pensions was the only ministry to record no difference in pay.
A government spokesman said: “Across government, our gender pay gap continues to narrow and is still significantly lower than the private sector, but we know there is more to do.”
At No 10 itself a separate data release showed that there were more than twice as many men working who were in the top two pay brackets as there were women. Last year, 26 male special advisers in Downing Street received a salary ranging from £73,000 to £102,000 or £96,000 to £145,000. Only 11 women fell into the same categories.
Among special advisers was Dominic Cummings who received a 40% pay rise and a new salary of around £140,000 despite moderate pay rises for civil servants and MPs having been refused.
Cummings’s pay rise has been contrasted with the treatment of Sonia Khan, a former Treasury adviser to then chancellor Sajid Javid who was fired by the PM’s adviser. In March, a letter was sent from Boris Johnson to John Manzoni, the former chief executive of the civil service, rejecting his request for a settlement with Khan. The resulting litigation eventually led to the government paying out more than £50,000 with legal costs amounting to nearly £200,000.
Former colleagues of Cummings quoted in the press have alleged that he wanted the gender pay gap to be kept quiet, despite negotiating an increase in his own salary at that time.