A new survey warns that employees in the UK are likely to underestimate their company’s pay gap. 

New research conducted by CIPHR reveals a stark disparity between the number of people who agree that the UK has a gender pay gap and the amount of people who don’t believe there are any gender pay disparities in their own workplaces.

This lack of understanding, the study warns, could actually perpetuate gender pay gaps within organisations.

When asked to identify the current gender pay gap in the UK, the vast majority of respondents believed this to be 37 per cent. One in three people thought this gap was over half.

Conversely, only one in 20 people surveyed guessed correctly, stating 15 per cent.

Furthermore, employees’ perceptions of their own organisations were much more favourable than figures otherwise showed.

According to the government’s 2020-21 gender pay gap report, most organisations (79.8 per cent) that have over 250 employees in the UK pay their male employees more than their female employees.

Additionally, data from companies which have reported for this year’s deadline confirmed this with four out of every five organisations paying men more.

Despite this, only a third of people (36 per cent) think their employer has a gender pay gap in favour of men.

The majority of people (59 per cent of women and 52 per cent of men) perceived no pay gap at the organisation that they work for at all.

Non-management staff, in particular, were among the most likely to say that their employer has no pay gap (61 per cent) whilst people occupying senior management positions were much more likely to believe their organisation has discrepancy in salaries for equivalent roles.

Claire Williams, director of people and services at CIPHR, stated it was “interesting to see that so many people trust their employers not to have a gender pay gap – particularly when so many do”.

As such, Ms. Williams added this “highlights the importance of reporting and communicating gender pay gap figures – and what they mean to employees”. For employers, she added, gender pay reporting legislation should be used as an opportunity to really use the data to drive change within their organisation and not just as a tick-box exercise.

The study recommends businesses to be transparent about the decision-making processes for promotions and career advancement, to disclose salary ranges (including pay and bonuses), to use HR systems for reporting and to identify potential areas that need improvement and to introduce minimum gender and diversity quotas at interview stage.

Ms. Williams stated:

The UK’s gender pay gap is slowly closing thanks to years of reforms and inclusive policies and initiatives.

But these changes don’t just happen by themselves. Better representation of women and ethnic minorities at all levels, in all roles, across all organisations, is vital to ensuring that pay gaps are reduced more quickly.

It’s also the best way of ensuring that organisations attract and retain the best employees, and has a significant impact on overall company performance.

As detailed in the McKinsey 2020 ‘Diversity Wins’ report, the business case for diversity and inclusion (D&I) is stronger than ever, and the direct link to financial outperformance continues to strengthen – employers should take note of these key areas of research.

*HR software provider CIPHR polled 1,000 UK employees as part of their Gender Pay Gap survey, carried out on 23 September 2021.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.