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ASHE – the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (aka every pay data geek’s dream!)

Yesterday was the day that the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings is published by the ONS. If you love data, and you love tables full of data then yesterday was your day! The ONS publishes mass amounts of really interesting statistics.

Why employers should be keeping an eye on the ASHE data

For me however the focus is on the gender pay gap. Having recently submitted our response to the government’s consultation on closing the gender pay on behalf of our members, we are now waiting to see what the government will require from employers.

We have blogged previously about the who, what, why, when and where, and these questions are still relatively answered as we await the government’s response.

But what we do know is that it’s coming, and with the likely commencement date being October 2016, I imagine employers are likely to be publishing their gender pay gaps by 2018.


Read all about it! What’s the headline?

So the big headline today is that the overall gender pay gap is at its lowest ever of 9.4%. ‘Slow progress’ is the phrase that seems to be used in the media and on the Twittersphere and understandably as it’s only fallen from 9.6%.

What’s in a gender pay gap figure?

Well, let’s start by reminding readers what the figures actually are. The ONS calculates the gender pay gap based on hourly pay excluding overtime. And the headline figure today looks at the full-time hour pay excluding overtime. While both the mean and median are published, the focus is predominantly on the median. So here’s how we get the figure:



If we then look at part-time, (with women far more likely to take part-time jobs) we see things a little bit differently:




Now, let’s look at it altogether:




Now you will see why I titled the blog ‘the devil is always in the detail.’

The big reveal…..the gender pay gap by industry

The ONS data let’s us dig a bit deeper, including by industry. I don’t think I speak to any manufacturer who doesn’t acknowledge that the gender balance in their workforce could be a little (if not a lot) better. So it’s not surprising to me then, that the gender pay gap in manufacturing, is just a bit higher:



If we dig down deeper still (see you really have to be a policy geek that likes data) we can then look at manufacturing in more detail, which can bring good news and not so good news.

So the not so good news, is that when we look at manufacturer of food products the gender pay gap is 16.45%, but if we then turn to basic metals it’s at -19.61% with women earning £18.24 in comparison to their male counterparts at £15.25.

Why is this the case?

Manufacturers struggle to attract women into their workforce. An early cut of EEF’s forthcoming skills survey suggests the average make up of an EEF member is 85% male and 15% female.

With men likely to take up positions in manufacturing such as professional engineers, which subsequently attract better pay, and women taking up more semi-skilled roles, a gender pay gap is almost certain.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t do anything about it. In fact we know manufacturers are engaging in a mass amount of activities and initiatives to boost the pipeline of female talent into the industry; speaking in schools, offering site visits, becoming STEM ambassadors, sponsoring female talent awards…the list is endless. And to an extent the list needs to be endless as these are the figures:

  • 7% - the number of female apprentices

  • 15% the number of female engineering degree applications

  • 9% the number of professional engineers

The stats and the challenges

There are clearly challenges for employers, and here are what I consider the big three tied together with some of our findings from our recent gender pay reporting survey….


1. Employers are going to have to report on their gender pay gap, most likely in the same way that the ONS report the gender pay gap. This is going to take some time to get right so companies will need to be thinking about it now.


2. Manufacturers are likely to find themselves having an ‘above-average’ gender pay gap which they’ll then to explain, probably through a voluntary narrative to accompany the gender pay gap figure.


3. Industry will need to be thinking more innovatively about how they can address the gender imbalance (if they have one in their company). This includes getting more females into their apprentice and graduate programmes but also ensuring that women in their workplaces have the opportunity to progress and move from shop floor to top floor.