Almost a quarter of an expected 10,000 organisations have yet to file their gender pay figures ahead of Thursday’s deadline, amid speculation that the gap between men’s and women’s wages is widening.
Firms employing more than 250 workers have to publish pay gap details or risk facing legal action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), leading to court orders and fines.
Among the 7,800 to have already done so were all the main high street banks and supermarkets, almost all airlines, and most rail companies, broadcasters and Premier League football clubs.
Of the 7,800, three-quarters reported a gender pay gap.
A handful of councils, NHS trusts and universities are still to report, despite the deadline for public sector organisations having passed on March 30.
Of the 5,086 employers to have published a comparable gender pay gap for both 2018 and 2017, a total of 2,277 (44.8%) reported an increase, 181 (3.6%) no change and 2,628 (51.7%) a decrease.
The gender pay gap is the difference between the average hourly wage of men and women working in the same organisation.
It is not the same as equal pay, where firms are required by law to pay men and women doing the same job the same salary.
Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, said: “The median pay gap appears to have widened across the board, with many companies expected to report a greater gap than last year.
“The numbers are clearly not moving in the right direction. Companies across the UK are scrambling to prepare. We have failed to take back control of our gender pay gap.
“Too many organisations have settled for ticking boxes rather than deal with the gender pay gap, an outcome I think can be laid at Brexit’s door.
“Most leaders have been preoccupied preparing plans for a dizzying array of outcomes whilst in parallel investing in no-deal preparations they hope won’t come to pass.
“Most company senior management have limited amount of time in the day, and Brexit has taken up all the breathing space. The gender pay gap has been starved of oxygen in businesses and boardrooms and up and down the country.”
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “It is disappointing, but not surprising, that there are so many employers in the UK with large pay gaps and that these pay gaps aren’t being closed.
“The regulations are not tough enough – it’s time for action plans not excuses.”
She added: “Employers need to set out a five-year strategy for how they will close their gender pay gaps, monitoring progress and results. Government needs to require employers to publish action plans that we can hold them accountable to, with meaningful sanctions in place for those who do not comply.
“In some cases, employers will have a wider gap because they have taken on new female junior staff to build their pipeline, but unless they can demonstrate that, it is more likely that they’ve failed to make changes.”