Employers react after stark contrast in gender pay gap of Sunderland workforce revealed

An Arriva train.
An Arriva train.

The stark contrast in pay between men and women working at some of Wearside’s biggest organisations has been laid bare with the publication of the gender pay gap.

Sunderland-based companies with more than 250 employees on their books have revealed the difference in pay between men and women.

Sunderland Civic Centre.

Sunderland Civic Centre.

Gender pay gap: How Sunderland companies rank

The average median pay gap for companies based in Sunderland was 8.7%, which compares to a national average of 12%.

The company with the highest median pay gap between male and female members of staff was a subsidiary of Sunderland based Arriva, with Arriva Rail London Limited with a 44% disparity.

This means that women working for the company earn 56p for every £1 that men earn.

Gentoo's headquarters in Emperor Way in Doxford International Business Park.

Gentoo's headquarters in Emperor Way in Doxford International Business Park.

At the other end of the scale, car giant Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Limited pay women 15.1% more than men.

Sunderland University also featured high on the list, with a gap of 20.9% in pay between men and women.

Sunderland AFC, which has a gap of 15.8%, and housing provider Gentoo, which recorded a gap of 14.6%.

Sunderland City Council, one of the city’s biggest employers, at present has a pay gap of 13.5%.

Sunderland University's St Peter's Campus

Sunderland University's St Peter's Campus

A spokesman for Arriva said this was due to men taking up most of the highest paid positions within the company.

“There is a gender imbalance within our total workforce, particularly across our senior population where men make up the majority of those in the highest paid and most senior positions,” he said.

“This is the main reason behind the gender pay gap and is reflective of the transport industry as a whole which has, over the decades, struggled to attract women.

“At Arriva men and women have equal access and opportunities to, and pay for, the same roles. But we need to do more to attract greater numbers of women and other under-represented groups into our businesses.”

Katie Bulmer-Cooke.

Katie Bulmer-Cooke.

The Chiltern Railway Company, which has a gap of 31%, XC Trains Limited which has a gap of 29% and Yorkshire Tiger Limited, which has a 1% gap, all come under the Arriva umbrella.

A spokesman for the university said the figures were affected by “groups of part-time roles”.

“We were one of the first universities to introduce an Equal Pay Policy and have been reporting our pay structure since 2003,” he said.

“We also publish annual Equality, Diversity and Social Responsibility reports.

“Our median pay gap, which compares the rate of pay of the middle man and middle woman in the pay structure, is affected by our groups of part-time roles.

“Since we began reporting in 2003 we have seen a strong and consistent reduction in our pay gap, which continues in our latest average (mean) pay gap of 12%.

“This is significantly better than the national position and reflects the positive representation of women at all levels in our pay structure.”

Louise Bassett, executive director corporate services at Gentoo, said: “Based on our analysis we are confident that men and women are paid fairly for equivalent roles within Gentoo.

“The quartile results highlight that we employ a higher proportion of males than females in the in the upper and upper mid quartiles.

“We are committed to reducing our gender pay gap and we will continue to support the progression of females to senior roles within our organisation.”

A spokesman for Sunderland City Council said: “In the city council, as in the broader labour market, there is considerable gender segregation in the lowest pay group with women dominating catering, cleaning and business administration roles.

“The transfer of employees from the council to Together for Children (TfC), and the nature of the occupations that transferred, has resulted in the number of females in the top two pay quartiles for the council decreasing and the number of females in the lowest two pay quartiles increasing following the transfer.

“Measures to improve the gender pay gap include actions to support women in returning to work and men fulfilling their caring responsibilities, continuous improvements in the recruitment process, and a focus on gender equality.”

Sunderland businesswoman and former Apprentice contestant Katie Bulmer-Cooke said without doubt those in the same job role should be paid equally, regardless of gender.

She said: “The publication of gender pay gap figures make for an interesting read.

“For me it’s important that we read between the lines with these figures.

“Assuming that both a male and female employee are in the same role with equal authority and responsibility, then they should absolutely be paid equally.

“Pay should be representative of the job role and not the gender of the employee, but the job role should also be given to the best person for job regardless of gender.”

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average hourly earnings of men and women.

In 2017 it became government policy that all UK companies employing 250 people or more must submit the details of their gender pay gap by April 4.

Public bodies were given an earlier reporting deadline of March 30.