Men are paid on average around 10 per cent more than women across the UK, pay gap figures collected by the government suggest.
All UK companies, charities and public sector bodies with more than 250 employees were legally required to submit pay gap figures to the government by midnight last night under new rules introduced last year.
Around four in five companies have a pay gap favouring men, according to figures available shortly before the deadline, while around 15 per cent had one in favour of women. About 8 per cent said they had no gap. Almost 10,000 employers submitted data.
Prime Minister Theresa May called for more action to “close the gap for good within a generation” and labelled the gap a “burning injustice”.
In a newspaper article she compared the pay gap to the women’s suffrage campaign a century ago, saying: “A hundred years ago, some women first won the right to vote. But for all the welcome progress in the decades since, major injustices still hold too many women back.
“When I became Prime Minister, I committed myself to tackling the burning injustices which mar our society. One such is the gender pay gap.”
While the difference in median hourly wages is at an historic low, Mrs May said progress is still too slow and action was needed to close the gap for good within a generation.
“It is essential that we do so. Most importantly, because equality for women is a right, and our whole society is the poorer as long as it remains unrealised,” she said.
“There is also a clear economic imperative. It is estimated that if women and men enjoyed parity in their hours, pay and seniority at work then we could see up to £150 billion added to our GDP.”
Mrs May said: “By making this information public, organisations will no longer have anywhere to hide. We will have established a baseline from which to hold them to account in the future. Shareholders and customers will expect to see improvements, and will be able to hold organisations to account if they fail to achieve them.”
She also called on workplaces to rid themselves of “outdated stereotypes” and recognise that everyone brings their own experience into their role.
Labour MP Harriet Harman said the pay transparency was “stripping away the veil and showing the pay discrimination”.
She said: “What we’ve got is a pay structure which reflects how it used to be and not how it should be, which is that an hour of a woman’s work is no less valuable than an hour of a man’s work.”
And CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said gender pay gap reporting was a chance for businesses to bring about change.
The government site set up to collect the figures crashed yesterday morning as companies rushed to file ahead of last night’s 11:59pm deadline.
Some of the largest pay gaps were in the aviation and finance industries. Ryanair had a mean hourly pay gap of 67 per cent, and a median hourly pay gap of 71.8 per cent, while EasyJet had a mean hourly pay gap of 51.7 per cent.
Both companies cited the imbalance in the number of male and female pilots as a contributing factor.
Financial companies showed large gender gaps in bonuses awarded to staff, which firms were also required to report. HSBC had a mean bonus gap of 86 per cent, while JP Morgan reported a gap of 76 per cent.
The job with the smallest gap is train driving at 0.7 per cent, according to the drivers’ union Aslef. Officials said they have strong collective bargaining agreements with rail companies, which have helped keep any wage differences down. Of the union’s 19,661 members, 6.5 per cent are women.
Some groups have said the gender pay gap is a crude measure of equality. Economist Kate Andrews of the Institute of Economic Affairs said: “I, for one, would like to see the government roll back these requirements completely, and keep its focus on upholding equal pay legislation.”
But Dawn Butler, shadow women and equalities minister, said: “The Equality and Human Rights Commission must use the full force of its powers to ensure employers publish their data or face sanctions.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said it will initially contact employers informally at first if they have not published by the deadline, but businesses could ultimately face “unlimited fines and convictions”.