Gender pay gap widens at four UK departments, falls at 13

By on 04/02/2020 | Updated on 25/09/2020
The UK department with the greatest rise in its gender pay gap was the Department for International Trade – whose secretary of state, Liz Truss, is also the minister for women and equalities. Picture courtesy of Policy Exchange.

Four central UK government departments have reported that their gender pay gap grew over the last year, while the gap shrank at 13 departments and remained at zero at the Department of Work and Pensions.

The figures reveal that the department which saw the biggest increase in its gender pay gap was the Department for International Trade – whose secretary of state, Liz Truss, is also the minister for women and equalities. The department reported a significant rise in its gender pay gap from 9.4 per cent in 2018-19 to 12.9 per cent in 2019-20, according to self-reported data released via

Other departments reporting a widening gap were the Foreign Office, up from 8.2 to 10.1 per cent; the Home Office, which saw a rise from 14.5 to 14.6 per cent; and the Ministry of Justice, up from 15.3 to 15.9 per cent.

Balanced pay at DWP

The Department for Work and Pensions is the only department to report that male and female employees enjoy equal median hourly earnings, repeating its performance from the previous year. The smallest pay gap is at the Department of Education, where it stood at 5.3 per cent in 2019-20 – down from 5.6 per cent in 2018-19.

The worst performer overall is the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, with a 16.6 per cent pay gap. However, the department has made good progress since first reporting its figures in 2017-18, when pay disparity stood at 22.9 per cent. 

The Ministry of Justice also reported higher pay disparity than most in 2019-20, at 15.9 per cent. Other large gaps appear at the Treasury, where it’s 14.6 per cent; the Home Office, with 14.6 per cent; the Department for Transport, at 13.8 per cent; and the Department for Exiting the European Union, at 13.6 per cent. All these departments saw falls in their pay gap over the year.

Must do better

Victoria Jones, equalities officer at the FDA union, told Public Technology that it is “unacceptable” that the pay gap has increased in some departments.

“In 2020 we are still not seeing significant progress across the board, and the progress we have seen is simply too slow. It’s unacceptable that the gender pay gap is increasing in some departments,” she said.

Organisations and companies with more than 250 staff have been required to release their annual gender gap pay data for three years. Every government department reported better figures than the national average across the UK workforce, where the pay gap in 2019 stood at 17.3 per cent, according to the Office for National Statistics

This article has been amended to correct errors in the data, and to make clear that the departmental pay gap data was produced by individual departments and released via – not by the Office of National Statistics, which only publishes gender pay gap figures for the economy as a whole. Our apologies for the error.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

One Comment

  1. Marky P says:

    Have the results been co-related with people who are the “primary” child carers?

    In the department I work in it would seem that if you choose to become the primary carer of children at some point in your life it reduces your wage earning potential.

    Case in point my earnings are significantly higher than one of my male colleagues who has just returned to work after taking 2 years off work to be a stay home dad (despite us having similar experience, being 2 months different in age, having the same first name and similar skills & qualifications). Other people who work school hours or 4 day weeks to fit round child care also don’t appear to get the more senior roles as often, regardless of their gender.

    The underlying gender imbalance within our society that attaches stigma to men who chose to put caring for their kids ahead of work could actually be the cause of some of the pay imbalance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *