You’ve probably heard that all UK employers with over 250 employees need to publish a gender pay gap report from this April. This is to show if there’s any difference in the average pay between all men and all women in an organisation.

We’ve just published ours on our website and the Government’s website.

What does our report show?

Our numbers are better than the national average, but like most large employers we do have a gender pay gap. There are lots of reasons why, but it’s mainly due to us having more men in senior positions than women.

Equality is one of our Co-op values, so we know we can do better than this. We’re working on it, but it’ll take time.

For the first time we now have more women on our Executive than men. So while there’s more work to do at other levels, we’ll keep challenging ourselves to follow the example set by our Executive.​

What are we doing to fix it?

In 2017 we launched our diversity and inclusion strategy, focusing on building a culture that’s equal, diverse and inclusive, with a number of activities around gender balance. One of our key aims for 2018 is to launch an Inclusion Council, which will help us deliver our D&I strategy. 

We also have a diversity and inclusion policy, that sets out our commitments, and what we expect of colleagues. We’ll continue to make sure that our managers and colleagues are aware of this, and why it’s so important. 

If you have any questions, here’s a list of frequently asked questions. And if your question isn’t answered, you can email


Helen Webb
Chief People Officer

Join the conversation! 39 Comments

  1. Some interesting and balanced further reading here for any one who is interested, @John, @Steve, you should take a look:

    “The average annual pay for women today is the same that men were earning in 2005”

    Biology and finance might dictate that the majority of women have to put family commitments first more so than men (not always a ‘choice’ for women but a necessity) but if businesses can evolve to be more flexible and modernise working practices to accommodate a better work life balance (for women and men!) we will start to see the pay gap reduce and start to see greater economic impact of women being able to advance at the same rate as men in the workplace. “estimates suggest that global GDP would rise by between 5-20% if women’s participation in the workforce increased.”

  2. If different people are on entirely different salaries despite doing the same work to the same standard would that be ok ?
    I just ask as everyone on my team with the same role/title have very different salaries depending on what was offered/negotiated at the time they were hired.

    • Hi Indiscriminate,

      While there may be some differences due to length of time in service / experience etc it should be equal pay for equal work.

      • That is the question isn’t it. “It should”. Due to the culture in the UK for workers to be more likely to discuss intimate details of their personal life than their salary (A quite interesting study). It is a very taboo topic. Does the Co-op in anyway check it is paying staff fairly once length of service is considered?
        Regards experience I find that to be a very inconsistent topic. I have seen staff work for a year in a role as a temp, be offered a contract and given the absolute minimum for the role band.
        I believe companies don’t want to even entertain a consideration to check it is fair. They do not want staff to compare themselves against others as that would remove the competitive edge from having staff compete against each other.
        That in turn matches the well studied fact that women are less likely to request a rise. Overall no matter the gender they want it all to remain a mystery as employees don’t complain about what they can not prove due to the secrecy and stigma of discussing pay.

        The currently negotiated annual payrise now being based on PDP score is another way of keeping it complicated. I have no idea why the union agreed to it ,as it means clerical staff who’s targets are team based will possibly work their best but if the rest of their team let them down they will be the one who suffers. Either the PDD should be purely based on individual effort or returned to being a managerial only method (as managers as the title suggests should be wholly responsible for a teams performance).
        It will also mean salaries across people with the same role will vary even further making the waters of equal pay for equal work even muddier.

    • Hi Indisriminate.

      That difference is also impacted by their ability to cultivate the right relationship with their line managers.

      Rule No 1 applies – in a bureaucracy like the Co-op, you don’t put the customer first, your top priority is keeping your boss happy. People get rewarded according to how well they flatter the boss’s ego. Fairness has nothing to do with it ….

  3. Steve you absolutely rite my friend the gap has nothing to do with woman being woman and men being men it all comes down to choices.
    There have been plenty studies into this which shows men will most likely pick work over family doing that over time as appose to going to a school play etc.

    A persons colour and gender have nothing to do with if they get a job its there experience and qualifications there are PLENTY of jobs where woman dominate and earn more and yet men are moaning about that but when it is the reverse some people moan.

    A woman doing the same job and hours as a man earns the same the gaps been proven a myth countless times and this is just the same.

    Hope this helps clear things up

  4. Just to focus on the positives …

    After a career break of more than 16 years, I returned to university to study a Masters degree, which as a scary prospect for a stay at home mum. On completion of my degree, I was initially worried that employers would focus not on my degree but on my career break. I can gladly report that this was not the case, and the Co-op team have been supportive of my return to work. The focus has been on my employment as a new graduate, my gender, age or my decision to take a career break has not been an issue. The workplace is changing, becoming more open, and the reporting of gender pay gaps is a change worth celebrating.

  5. Equal Pay does not mean achieving it through ‘positive discrimination’.
    Equality means no discrimination of any type is in the equation of how anyone is treated.
    Change has been made in our lifetimes, and it will continue, just hopefully a little faster if we all make it happen.

  6. Steve – I think your attitude is slightly naïve. There is a pay gap, and the reasons for this should always be explored. Some of the reasons you mentioned, obviously play a part, but it should always be explored to ensure that no discrimination exists. It is always those that are in a more privileged positions, that are more likely to ignore these gaps. As a male, I think it is shameful that these gaps can exist in the 21st century, and we all should strive to eradicate this within our lifetime.

    I don’t want my daughter to grow up expecting lower pay, just because she is female.

  7. I have to echo some of Steve’s concerns prior. My concern is simple- what is the actual purpose of this report? We already know from countless sources that women and men make different choices surrounding families, education, and careers, and are biologically predisposed to being better in certain areas. A true useful measure would be our pay gap between men and women in the same positions on the same hours with the same experience. I’m sure if we focussed on those figures alone we’d realise we don’t actually have a significant gap.

    That point shouldn’t be taken to mean I don’t acknowledge an overarching gap between average pay, but if we’re assuming it’s a gender issue should we not, in following the scientific method, control for all other variables before we conclude it’s even remotely gender-based? By controlling for other variables, such as hours worked, skill level, service level, etc. pay gaps don’t exist, as it’s long been illegal to pay someone less simply due to gender. Hell if it’s that easy we could surely save a few quid by sacking all the men, no? 🙂

    Of course there may be a larger issue at hand whereby women are systematically coerced into lower paying jobs or not offered higher tier positions in a way we cannot directly measure but I find this hard to believe as it paints an image of a large conspiracy, and is also not helped by companies publishing reports highlighting gender gaps when other variables are not controlled for. These reports are the problem, not women being paid any less for the same work!

    • These reports start a conversation they are not the problem. They are encouraging a more open view of an issue that exists within our society. More work could be done to show how the gender pay gap varies by level.

      As an organisation that prides our self on our ethics, we need to be more open about the results of the gender pay gaps at similar levels and look at other potential gaps such as ethnicity for example.

      • I appreciate what you’re saying, however do you honestly not see the harm they do in propagating the notion that there is a legitimate pay gap for equal work?

        All reports of this nature released in our country indicate that when controlling for the actual job being done and hours worked no significant gap is observed. The entire notion of having to publish “gender pay gap reports” is to imply any gap caused is the result of gender discrimination, with top-level blurbs always stating the variance in average earnings over an entire business, sector, or even country. I’m pretty sure if we were to take such vague statistics for any measure we could have them show anything we wanted.

        I fear that these reports being mandatory is an assumption of discrimination with little proof that can’t be explained by freedom of choice and different desires of different groups. As it stands women are at no disadvantage to men in modern day Britain and all the while we pretend they are we are instead not focusing on issues that do affect people- even often going as far as to ignore mens’ issues altogether.

        • The problem is stats are black and white compared to a grey issue. For example – a man and a woman both have the same job, same qualifications, are equally as good as their job. The man has 5 years of experience and the woman 3 – statistically you can say it’s fair that the man is paid higher. But in this example the man and the woman are a married couple – they both want a career and a family equally, but perhaps due to company maternity/paternity policies (and biology!) it’s the woman who has had a hit to her career and salary as she’s had to take the time off, not the man. Of course I’m not saying all inequalities are like this, but reports like this should be considered to understand what’s going on in the grey and seek to improve for true fairness.

          • That’s a fair point and well put. I would like to counter however by asking how it is the responsibility of ultimately private enterprise in the free market to essentially compensate for differences in biology? I am of course for equality of opportunity, however can’t help but think we shouldn’t ignore the impact that legitimate sex differences, such as in this case pregnancy, have on a business. Women are in no way forced to start a family, and those who do not have every advantage afforded to men (and in some cases more). Should we not be so eager to ignore our differences and instead celebrate them. Men and women are different, in so many ways. What each sex can achieve varies (in a complementary manner for the most part). Can we not just agree that differences in overarching average pay as seen does not reflect women being underpaid or discriminated against, but instead simply demonstrates the differences that exist. Why are we so eager to ignore these differences?

            I do appreciate that the required investment in starting a family from a man is much less than that required from a woman, however the act of starting a family is still a choice for both parties, and any women driven by their career are at liberty to forgo starting a family, or to seek alternative solutions such as adoption / surrogacy (with their partner serving as primary caregiver).

            I love that things like this start a dialogue, but still fear these results are too often twisted to support narratives that do more harm than good.

            • I find it strange someone in the comments for the Co-op would question why a business would compensate for differences. If there is unfairness – whether that be due to gender, race, sexuality, poverty, whatever – then it’s a better way of doing business to compensate for that. You seem to be stating as a fact it’s not unfair.
              You say you like dialogue, but in your comments you have made categorically back and white statements like “…pay gaps don’t exist…”, “…women are at no disadvantage…” and how reports like this are damaging because they propagate what you clearly believe is false.
              Just as it would be ridiculous to look at the black and white of a report like this and just ‘fire all of the men’, it’s equally ridiculous to ignore a report like this with a simple ‘men and women are different, no problem here, move along’. How about we use reports like this to look at the greys, identify where there is those elements of unfairness and move to resolve them.

  8. Hello Steve, I understand your concerns regarding positive discrimination, and personally feel that all roles should be awarded to the best candidate, irrespective of gender, class, culture or creed. However, I am also well aware of unconscious bias, which unfortunately means that across most commercial organisations (including the Coop) we have mostly white, middle class males in senior positions. How can this be a true representation of the work force? The so called “glass ceiling” that I was told about in the 80’s when I started my career, and didn’t believe existed, because I thought naïvely that the equality act had sorted all that out, is still there, it’s beginning to crack, and things like the pay gap reporting will I hope be part of the finale push to break it.

  9. Hi Liam,

    Really glad to see your comments.

    I agree that there is a real issue in here and if people doing the same job are discriminated against by reason of gender, race, age, disability then clearly that’s wrong.

    When it comes to ” Leadership” that is probably the wrong word as the organisation has just decided it wants less than 50 “Co-op Leaders” . We don’t call them “Food Store Leaders” do we ?

    Anyway when talking about leader or manager roles you’re talking with an implied assumption that “leadership skills” are gender-neutral and that there is a leadership role, and a leadership culture in the organisation, that all of us will find equally easy to blend in with.

    This isn’t the case as roles and attitudes are still biased and we don’t have a truly inclusive leadership culture.

    For example, if your leadership culture mandates that it’s OK for meetings to start at 7 am and conference calls to close the day out at 6:30 pm you are discriminating against those who have responsibilities outside the workplace which are tied to fixed times of day.

    Someone still has to get the children up and ready for school and make sure they are getting their tea before bedtime and, although some people can afford to outsource these responsibilities to nannies and child minders (paid or not), and the range of people with these responsibilities extend well beyond those who are parents, overwhelmingly in this society the responsibility will still fall disproportionately on one gender.

    And any follower of Strictly in 2017 will know, it’s not a level playing field when it comes to race and gender. Fuelled by the likes of the Daily Mail (which we still advertise in) the treatment of Alexandra Burke showed how readily-believed racial stereotypes are, and how the rules of the game are different for black women who face the risk of being branded “diva” far more readily than white women.

    Yes women can be leaders in this organisation, but only if they fit the existing organisational leadership model and do the things that the organisation expects of leaders – turn up early, stay late, debate the details of things in endless rounds of meetings, follow slow and bureaucratic ways of working and support a culture where the only people who are allowed to have ideas are those with the job title “Head of” .

  10. I’m probably being stupid here, but unless a man is offered £20k and a woman £19k at entry to the business for the same role then what we’re being asked to do to quantify unfairness in pay makes no sense to me. It is very wrong to offer 2 salaries at different rates for men and women, but you say in the FAQs that the gender pay gap reporting looks at the average pay of all men and women in an organisation. It’s doesn’t focus on individuals. If there’s a gender pay gap in a business, it means that on average men are being paid more.
    This to me does not highlight inequality in pay, the fact is that females statistically take more time out to start a family and more likely to return to role on reduced hours and even on occasion reduced responsibilities. instead this could potentially highlight inequality in recruitment, or simply certain roles are more desirable to a certain gender over another. Inequality in pay and inequality in recruitment are 2 different things surely? If you did this calculation in roles such as primary school teaching and midwifery then would men come out below women, as these roles are traditionally worked more so by females?
    Pay inequality is not right, but this method of reporting is baffling. I’d rather see a report that investigates whether males and females who work the same hours and same role are paid consistently, being mindful that tenure should be considered.

  11. Please could we see the pay gap by the quartile suggested within the report. To see if pay gap is consistent at all levels.

  12. Steve, change has happened in our lifetime, and change will continue to happen. It just needs to change faster. Measures such as this simply help to provide data that can start to work out how all businesses can contribute to that change. Change is not easy but it is vital.
    Equality is not positive discrimination – it means no discrimination for all.

  13. About time there was a requirement for this type of report. I complained years ago about my equivalent male counterparts being paid more than me but pay gap was not addressed. Maybe now we will see fairer pay. This isn’t just about there being more women in senior positions as stated by Steve. This is more importantly about men and women in the same roles being awarded the same pay.

  14. Just a note, anyone trying to access the report directly from the e-mail receives an access denied xml document.

  15. “Our numbers are better than the national average, but like most large employers we do have a gender pay gap. There are lots of reasons why, but it’s mainly due to us having more men in senior positions than women.”

    No. It’s because more men choose to do these jobs than women. I know its the 21st century, but still, more women then men choose to stay at home and look after children, whilst keeping a part time job. This is the reason for the “reported” pay gap. THIS WILL NEVER CHANGE IN OUR LIFETIMES.

    I worry that in trying to address the “pay gap” we will end up with people in jobs they aren’t suited to. Positive discrimination is still discrimination.

    • Hi Steve,

      Not every woman has / wants to have / can have children, so to suggest that all women are choosing not to progress their careers into senior positions / better paid jobs for this reason is untrue. Many of our own senior women have children, so the idea that having children is a complete barrier to progression or dampens personal ambition is also wrong.

      On the flip-side, the idea that it’s only women who are actively involved in raising families does men a huge disservice. The assumption that men only want to focus on their careers perpetuates the idea that flexible working and work-life balance measures are not for men, which makes it harder for the men who want to spend more time at home to do so.

      No-one is suggesting positive discrimination, but I think we need to explore the reasons for the disparity. For example, looking at the quartile information, over 70% of the colleagues in the lowest quartile in ‘Group’ are women. We can’t presume this is all down to caring responsibilities, otherwise wouldn’t we see a similar number for CFS (56%)?

    • Hi Steve

      Really great to read your comment. Normally when gender pay gap studies are carried out, they take into consideration that more women work part-time hours. Ours will have done the same.

      I don’t think the study is claiming that anyone (male or female) who works shorter weeks should receive pay on parity with someone working a five day week. If they work the same job but with fewer hours, of course their pay (if salaried) will be pro-rated for fairness.

      Ultimately the Co-op is trying to tackle a real problem, which is that women on average receive less compensation for an hour of their work. This is why the report is calculated on the basis of pay per hour (which I’m sure you’ve read). What we’re suggesting is that women who work in the same role should receive equitable remuneration for the same job and should work in a culture that doesn’t dissuade women from uptaking leadership roles.

      When you say that ‘address[ing] the “pay gap” [will] end up with people in jobs they aren’t suited to’, I’m not sure if I appreciate what is meant by this sentiment precisely. I’d love to reassure you that the evidence that women are apt leaders is overwhelming in the business. Men and women really do have an even distribution of leadership skills so I wouldn’t worry about that at all. Our ladies will do a great job :).

    • Steve you totally correct the only reason as you said for the gap is men would choose overtime more often and chose work more often then family and its not a bad thing it is just how men are.

      What I think steve means when he mentions
      “pay gap” we will end up with people in jobs they aren’t suited to
      Is that in a futile effort to get more woman into higher positions that woman with less experience and or qualifications than male candidates will get the job purely on the fact they are female.
      This would be terrible as it would result in unfair and inexperienced people in a position they should not be in and a man just because he is a man not getting a position he is more qualified for.

      Hope that helps LiamMcCaffrey

      When it comes down to it there really is no gap and issue when you see why men are taking more money hope it has nothing to do with the fact men are men and woman are woman.
      But when you have some people who shout about it being a problem that’s the only issue.

    • Missing the point entirely award goes to….

      There is a societal bias that there are ‘boys job’ and ‘girls jobs’, that ‘women choose to stay at home’ or ‘choose not to do the job’. This just isnt true and it quite regressive. (Do women really choose to stay at home with children or is it because ‘its expected’ or that maternity/paternity policy?)

      “I worry that in trying to address the “pay gap” we will end up with people in jobs they aren’t suited to.” Or, in other words you think that women cant do ‘boy’s jobs’. Why are there so many men in senior leadership? Because societal bias favours men for career development, favours men in progression and promotion, makes it really difficult for women to take a career break for children (and favors men to continue a career)

      It is of extreme importance that we get out of this mindset. We must ensure women are paid equally. Must ensure they have the same opportunity and development. At we must ensure that having children doesn’t end a career.

      Why? – Because its the right thing to do (do what matters most) and is holding back a whole group of people from fulfilling their potential (recently calculated at £23billion:

      And its completely possible within your lifetime.

    • Hello Steve,

      You are right that many women choose to work flexible or part time hours, in order to be able to stay home more and look after the children. But that is in part because there is a pervasive cultural norm that women should be more naturally nurturing and take more responsibility for children, and that men are somehow less good at this, and that they should be at work and being the main breadwinner. This is something that keeps the gender pay gap open. It also reflects common gender stereotypes, as it assumes that women will want to stay at home with children more or all of the time, and no men will. I don’t think this is the case in reality. For example, I am a woman and I have no desire to be a stay at home mum. I know men who would quite like to take more time off to be with their children. But often people don’t or can’t do this because of reasons such as:

      Paternity leave is only 2 weeks
      Shared parental leave is not as generous as maternity leave, so families often can’t afford to do it, even if they want to
      It’s less culturally ‘normal’ for men to ask for flexible or part time hours to fit round childcare, so it tends to happen less

      There are many more reasons of course – these are just a few.

      The gender pay gap, and sexism in general is bad for both men and women, as it assumes certain things about them that may not fit with their individual preferences and personalities, and so limits people’s choices. I think it’s great that the Co-op has published its report and is proactively looking for ways to address the gap. Don’t be defeatist and say that things won’t change in our lifetimes. It used to be totally unthinkable for women to do own property, or for men to publicly show emotion. Things do and can change, we just have to be positive and proactive, and all work together, men and women, to create a better world for us all. 🙂

      • I think is almost certainly the most concise analysis of this issue I have read, especially considering the restrictions of family friendly policies.

      • I love some of the points you’ve made here. I think we, as a society and as a business, could do more to make things more comparable. We could change our maternity policy to encompass a “shared parental leave” whereby a period can be shared between the father and the mother at the same pay as usual, allowing for fathers to spend more time caring for newly born children and mothers to return to work sooner. That’s a great idea that I’m sure nobody would ever contend. Why do we need reports that highlight vague and misleading “pay gaps” to achieve this though?


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