Today, nearly fifty years since the Equal Pay Act of 1970, it is no secret that equal pay is still an issue for many professions in the UK, and for medical doctors it is no exception.
In 2009 the NHS announced that male doctors were earning an average of £15,245 more than their female counterparts. Moreover, female consultants were earning an average of £5,500 less than males with similar levels of experience. The pay gap was even a problem for junior doctors, where females were earning up to £2,000 less than their male equivalents.
Eight years on: How much has really changed?
We are constantly being told that the gender pay gap is narrowing, that it is becoming less and less of an issue, but this is not the case for UK doctors. In 2014 the gender pay gap was at a record high 40% for medical practitioners, but has since fallen and today medical practitioners experience a gender pay gap of 29.8%, according to the 2016 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. This pay gap has increased by more than 10% since 2009, where a survey by the BMA found that female doctors earned 18% less than male doctors.
Furthermore, this gender pay gap experienced in the medical profession is 11.7% higher than the average UK gender pay gap which is at a record low of 18.1%, according to the government equalities office.
So why are doctors experiencing such large pay gaps? John Appleby, Chief Economist at the King's Fund, says that the gender pay gap “remains largely inexplicable”. However, the gender pay gap is attempted to be explained away by part-time work and maternity leave for women. It is argued that this hinders women’s abilities to earn top salaries in the same way their male counterparts can.
Penny Newman, general practitioner and author of Releasing Potential: Women Doctors and Clinical Leadership, comments on the impact part-time work is having on the gender pay gap, “Women are choosing general practice over other specialties in order to work part time,” she says. “What’s happening now is you have about a 900% increase in salaried GP roles, which are mainly women working part time, and the difference [in pay] between salaried GPs and partners is not just a little difference.”
Government plans to close the gender pay gap
A letter addressing the gender pay gap was written and signed by MP David Lammy, along with forty other MPs, and sent to Justine Greening, the minister for women and equality. It stated that in order for the gender pay gap to be properly addressed until shared parental leave is established, rather than the responsibility of childcare falling disproportionately on women.
Currently there are no plans to implement this policy but the government is working to expose gender pay gaps by exposing gender pay gaps in businesses. Justine Greening has emphasized that the government “are requiring large employers to publish their gender pay and gender bonus pay gaps for the first time ever,” and claims that this will be a major factor in helping to reduce the gender pay gap in the UK.