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Many waste firms ‘need to do more’ to close gender pay gap

male and female pay gap

Analysis of gender pay gap statistics by MRW has revealed wide discrepancies in the waste management industy’s performance due to the relatively low number of women pursuing a career in the sector.

MRW exclusive

200 MRW exclusive

From 6 April this year, there has been a legal requirement for companies of a minimum size to report the median average difference in pay between men and women.

The official published figures for the waste management industry included those from the water sector. MRW has undertaken its own analysis of 41 gender pay submissions by waste management companies alone.

On the face of it, the sector comes out with a strikingly low level of gender pay bias, with an average gender pay gap of just 0.8%. This compares well with the figure for all UK industries at just under 12%.

But the headline average masks a startling range of individual figures. Twenty-one waste businesses had gender pay gaps in favour of men, with 13 of these being larger than 10% and four greater than 20%.

The variety in the figures has been put down to a lower than average number of women in employment within the sector.

According to the Office for National Statistics, as of March this year there were 101,000 men employed in the sector compared with 37,000 women. This includes full and part-time staff at waste collection, treatment and disposal businesses as well as remediation firms. It excludes the wholesale waste and scrap sector.

gender pay gap graphic

gender pay gap graphic

The overall number of men in full or part-time employment stands at 17.1 million, and women at 14.2 million.

Rosie Clarke, senior inclusion and diversity consultant at membership body Inclusive Employers, told MRW: “If you do not have a huge population of women then it is very hard to make comparisons. Gender pay gap reporting is a good tool but it can give us false indications if we are not careful in how we interpret the data.”

Colin Church, chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, said the number of women working in the industry is increasing and called on employers to do more to attract women.

“There is still an imbalance, but the last decade has seen a lot more women working in the sector in a wide range of jobs, from engineering through to law, sales and contract management, consultancy, communications and policy.

“This may be down to a greater choice of roles as the sector has made the transition from the traditional ‘transport and tip’ model to a ‘resource recovery’ industry, linked in to wider agendas including circular economics, renewable energy and sustainable development.”

Church added that more women are coming to its New Member Network, which offers opportunities to those new to the industry.

“However, there is still a long way to go, and eliminating the glass ceiling is a challenge that is common to many industry sectors, not just resource and waste management,” he said.

“Some firms are clearly leading the way, not just in terms of equal pay but in encouraging women into the sector. Perhaps these examples need to be shared more proactively, and there is certainly more work to be done with school leavers and students. This is a dynamic and innovative sector that often does not sell itself well enough.

“Other ways of encouraging new talent across the board [include] mentoring, networking and other professional development opportunities.”

More exclusive analysis on gender pay will be in the July issue of MRW

Top five waste median gender pay gaps in favour of men:

  • Erith Contractors 39.4%
  • Donald Ward 35%
  • Countrystyle Recycling 23.4%
  • Reconomy (UK) 21.1%
  • Mid-UK Recycling 17.8%

Top five waste median gender pay gaps in favour of women:

  • Day Group 23.9%
  • Veolia ES Merseyside & Halton 23%
  • Bywaters (Leyton) 20%
  • William Tracey 18.1%
  • Patersons of Greenoakhill 14.6%

Veolia ES Merseyside & Halton had a 23% median pay gap in favour of women, while the waste giant’s Shropshire outfit had a zero pay gap and in Sheffield it was less than 3%.

But Veolia ES Shropshire had one of the highest levels of upper pay quartiles occupied by men, at 95.9%.

Estelle Brachlianoff, senior executive vice-president for UK and Ireland, said: “We are proud of our programmes to increase diversity and inclusivity and this report, which accurately depicts our gender pay gap, helps to show we are heading in the right direction.

“In 2017 we were recognised for our efforts in hiring more employees from diverse social backgrounds – including young people not in education, employment or training, ex-offenders and former military personnel – by winning Veolia’s Global Social Initiatives Award for social equity and diversity.

“We are also advancing our apprenticeship, female-focused leadership, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics programmes.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • In London Bywaters have led the way in ensuring that women are able to play their full part in the industry. Our Deputy MD, Amanda Brown, started with Bywaters at the age of 17 and by working closely together we have seen off all the “experts” that the failed NATWEST/RBS imposed on us. Unfortunately experts became puppets for Natwest/RBS, who tried hard to sink us. The tenacity of women, supprting men, saw us through. In the 1980’s it was “spot the woman” at industry events - but not now. Bywaters is very proud of these achievements.

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