New rules require UK companies to report their gender pay differences, but an examination of the data reveals highly anomalous statistics

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One in 20 UK companies that have submitted gender pay gap data to the government have reported numbers that are statistically improbable and therefore almost certainly inaccurate, a Financial Times analysis has found.

Fifteen companies, each with more than 250 employees, reported that they paid their male and female staff exactly the same, that is they had a zero average gender pay gap measured by both the mean and median.

The companies were in a range of sectors, including science and technical activities, retail, social care, recruitment, and services. They include Dana UK Axle, part of Dana Inc, an international car-parts manufacturer; Age UK North Tyneside, a branch of the national charity; and A Khan Restaurants, a McDonald’s franchise.

Experts on pay said that it was highly anomalous for companies of that size to have median and mean pay gaps that were identical because the two statistics measure different things. The mean gap measures the difference between the average male and female salary while the median gap is calculated using the midpoint salary for each gender.

Of the 15 companies that said they had no pay gap, seven added that they employed exactly the same number of men and women in the four pay grades that must be reported. 

“While it is certainly possible for organisations with 250 or more employees to have no gender pay gap, common sense dictates that it is entirely implausible that they would have no gap on both the median and mean measure, while having exactly equal numbers of men and women in each of the four pay quartiles,” said Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College London.

At least one company, Hugo Boss, changed its official submission after the FT pointed out that its results were unusual and asked for an explanation.

The company, which has 900 employees in the UK, originally reported that there was no gap of any kind between what it paid its male and female staff. It also reported that it had 53 per cent men and 47 per cent women in each of the four pay quartiles, and that 100 per cent of employees received a bonus. 

Hugo Boss did not respond to a request for comment. But its new submission showed a mean gender pay gap of 32.6 per cent and a median gap of 76.5 per cent.

All UK companies and public sector organisations with 250 or more employees must publicly report their gender pay gap before April under new government legislation. At noon on Wednesday, only 306 of the estimated 9,000 companies that will have to report had done so.

Employers are responsible for entering the 14 data points required by the government which are published on its gender pay gap portal. Published data must be signed off at a senior level by employers, but are not checked by the government.

Only three of the 15 companies provided responses to the FT’s request for an explanation of their numbers. Executives at Summit Recruitment, which provides temporary hospitality staff, and pharmacy group Walter Davidson & Son each said their pay rates were set by position and not affected by gender.

Holly Pearson, office manager at A Khan Restaurants, said the company had only included staff “working in the restaurants” and she believed the data did not include its directors.

The Department of Education, which includes the office responsible for the gender pay gap portal, said employers were legally required to report accurate gender pay gap data.

“This is not an option; it is the law. Employers have until April 2018 to report, so they need to get on and do it. Any evidence that employers are breaching the law can be investigated, and they risk being subject to enforcement by the Equality and Human Rights Commission,” the department said.

The companies with improbable numbers

The 15 companies reporting zero mean and median pay gaps were the following:

  • A Khan Restaurants
  • Age UK North Tyneside
  • Dana UK Axle
  • Dingbro
  • Eastgate Care Group
  • Erskine Hospital
  • Florin Industrial Services
  • Fore Street Employment Agency
  • Lorimer Care Homes
  • Minster Care Management
  • Peartree Cleaning Services
  • Summit Recruitment
  • The Bartrum Group
  • Walter Davidson & Sons
  • Watt Brothers (Glasgow And Edinburgh)

The eight companies reporting identical proportions of male and female employees at all four pay grades were:

  • A Khan Restaurants
  • Dana UK Axle
  • Eastgate Care Group
  • Fore Street Employment Agency 
  • Lorimer Care Homes
  • Manor Restaurants
  • Summit Recruitment
  • Watt Brothers (Glasgow and Edinburgh)

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