This year, companies with more than 250 employees were required by order of the UK government to released and submit data relating to their employees’ pay rates. The reason for this relates to the gender pay gap – the data was required in order to establish if any improvements have been made to close the gap in men and women’s pay.

Law firms were, according to The Law Society Gazette, some of the first firms to submit their data. In this article, we will explore how law firms currently fare when it comes to the gender pay gap, alongside conveyancing experts True Solicitors.

Deadline for data submission

The deadline was set for 4th April 2018 by the government; companies had to submit their pay data by this time. The results can be accessed here. Though it came as no surprise that the pay gap was still prevalent, the sheer scale of difference between men and women’s pay across businesses was quite alarming. The Independent reported on Ryanair’s revelation that women are paid 67% less in their company for example.

Law firm and the pay gap

Although not as bad as this, law firms still showed plenty of room for improvement. A law firm in South Yorkshire reported that the women in their workplace earned a 15.9% less median hourly rate compared to their male counterparts. However, a London-based law firm saw their women’s median hourly rate at 37.4% lower than men’s.

The Law Society quizzed 7,781 participants for their international survey of women in law in 2018, the largest international survey of its kind. The study found that while 60% were aware of a pay gap problem in their workplace, only 16% reported seeing anything being actively done about it. 74% of men said there was progress regarding the difference in pay between the genders, but only 48% of women agreed with that statement.

What is causing the gap?

But what is causing this difference in pay? Is it a difference in bonuses, or are higher job positions less readily available for women?

In reference to the previous data explored for the law firm in South Yorkshire, the same firm revealed that their women’s median bonus pay was 20% lower than men’s. The London-based firm noted a 40% lower median bonus pay for women compared to men. It clear that bonuses are also suffering from the same gender discrimination as standard wages.

Job roles, or rather, the advantages and disadvantages to being considered for certain roles, are also partly to blame. The Law Society’s survey showed 49% of law workers believe that an unacceptable work/life balance is needed to reach senior roles and is to blame for the gender pay gap, so it is feasible that starting a family is deemed a disadvantage for women. The Balance Careers notes the difference in perception — if a man starts a family, it is a note in his favour, showing stability and reliability. But for a woman, having children brings an unfair stigma of unreliability, that they may put their family first. This can cause discrimination when aiming for higher roles within the firm, such as partner positions.

Top roles in law

For women that do achieve partner status in a law firm, the pay gap doesn’t close any further. In fact, according to The Financial Times, female partners in London-based law firms earn on average 24% less compensation than men. 34% of women earn less than £250,000, where 15% of men earn less than £250,000.

How companies can look to close the gap

A number of suggestions for how firms can address the pay gap effectively were offered up by the BBC. These suggestions include:

  • Better, balanced paternity leave — allowing fathers to take paternity leave, or having a shared parental leave, would allow mothers to return to work earlier.
  • Childcare support — childcare is expensive! Support for childcare expenses would help both men and women in the workplace.
  • Allowing parents to work from home — the ability to work from home while raising a family would open up additional opportunities for women to balance both a career and a family.
  • A pay raise for female workers — a simple solution, but a pay raise for women can quickly equalise the pay rate between men and women.