Industrial Action Key Issues – Pay

With national strike action underway at 74 universities, we are looking at the some of the key issues in the pay and pensions disputes.

As well as taking action over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the University and College Union (UCU) is also striking over the 2019/20 pay negotiations, matters of contractual arrangements, job security, workload and mental health, and gender and ethnicity pay.

Our second article focuses specifically on pay.

National 2019/20 pay award

The HE sector’s 2019-20 pay award ranged between 3.65% for staff on the lowest point on the pay scale, and 1.8% for those on the higher points of the pay scale. The award has the effect of increasing the rate of pay at the lowest point on the pay scale to £9 per hour, which is currently the Real Living Wage rate of pay. The University is a Real Living Wage employer.

As with pensions, pay arrangements are negotiated at national level and individual universities are not involved in the negotiations.

Ongoing sector-wide negotiations

Following a period of constructive dialogue with UCU, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which represents 147 HE employers on a number of employment issues, including pay, recently released a range of proposals which seek to conclude the pay round and end the current pay dispute.

The proposals set sector-wide expectations to address important issues around employment in universities, with a focus on workload and mental health; gender pay gaps; ethnicity pay; and contractual arrangements.

This follows two months of constructive dialogue with UCU and national negotiations with all the trade unions including (as well as UCU), UNISON, Unite, GMB, and EIS, that began in March 2019.

On the issue of the gender pay gap, UCEA is proposing trade unions and employers develop an HE specific ‘checklist’ of suggestions to address blockages and enablers of women’s career progression, achieve balanced representation in gender-dominated roles, and support collection and analysis of overall data.

At institution level, this includes a commitment to the importance of understanding and addressing the issues of a gender pay gap; working with trade unions on action plans, making them publicly available and having monitoring and review processes in place; undertaking regular equal pay auditing; engaging with trade unions to provide trust in pay auditing processes; and developing plans to address any issues with BAME distribution in the workforce and ethnicity pay.

On ethnicity pay, UCEA is proposing trade unions and employers examine and report on national pay gap data and investigate actions and interventions that could be taken by employers, as well as encouraging colleagues to disclose protected characteristics.

Pay Gaps – Progress at Liverpool

In February, the University published its Gender Pay Gap for 2019, reporting a current median pay gap of 15.5%. This is a reduction of 3.5% from last year and means Liverpool’s gender pay gap is below the national UK gender pay gap for 2019 (17.3%).

The figures compare the median income of the whole male staff population and the whole female staff population. The University’s 15.5% (median) difference reflects the overall distribution of men and women in the pay spine and within different job groups.

The gender pay gap is not the same as equal pay – while the gender pay gap compares the average income of the whole male staff population and the whole female staff population, equal pay compares the average income of men and women who are doing the same or similar work to determine whether they are receiving equal remuneration. You can find out more here:

The University has undertaken a significant amount of work to promote gender equality in recent years, including supporting more than 200 women on the Springboard, Aurora and Senior Women’s Development Programmes. The University also runs academic promotion workshops, some of which are specifically aimed at women.

The University has been recognised as an Athena SWAN silver institution with multiple bronze and silver department awards, as well as one gold award. A total of 44% of professorial promotions in 2018 were women – an increase from 30% in 2017 – as well as 45% of promotions to Senior Lecturer and 52% of promotions to Reader. In addition, 40% of our university leaders are women – up from 30% in 2012 – and six of the 10 members of our Senior Leadership Team are female.

The reduction in the gender pay gap is a product of interventions that have been made over several years – each new intervention aims to speed up the pace of change. The University’s ability to impact the gender pay gap is, however, dependent upon changes in the make-up of the workforce – fluctuations between years are likely, but we believe we can continue the positive progress.

The University also reported reductions in median pay gaps for the following staff (a minus figure means the pay gap is in favour of the minority group):

Disability pay gap: 9.6% (11.1% in 2018)
Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) pay gap: -12.3% (-13.2% in 2018)
People of Colour (PoC) pay gap: -0.53% (-6% in 2018)

The full statutory Pay Gap 2019 report is available to view here.

Bonus pay

The majority of bonus pay at the University is awarded through either the University’s Exceptional Performance Award (EPA) scheme or the NHS Clinical Excellence Award Scheme (CEA). The CEA is implemented by the University but determined by partners in the NHS.

In 2019 a total of 160 staff received a bonus payment, of which 71 were men and 89 were women; resulting in a median gender bonus pay gap of 83.42%. However, when the CEA is removed to leave only those awards determined by the University, the median bonus pay gap is 0%.

Get involved

A series of webpages have been published where you can find out more about the University’s gender pay gap.

If you have questions about the gender pay gap, current gender equality initiatives or ideas about how the University could continue to close the gap, the Diversity and Equality Team would like to hear from you. Please email

Further information

Frequently Asked Questions on the industrial action for staff and students are available on our intranet.

Previous articles on key issues in the industrial dispute have been published on the topics of Pensions; Workload and Mental Health; and Career Development for Researchers.