Intended for healthcare professionals


Gender pay gap will not be closed by new reporting rules, says BMA

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 07 April 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j1782
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers
  1. arimmer{at}


New regulations requiring NHS trusts to publish data on the differences between men’s and women’s pay will need to be bolstered by further efforts to support women’s careers, the BMA believes. Abi Rimmer reports.

Efforts to tackle pay inequality in medicine cannot rely solely on new reporting rules to close the gap between men’s and women’s pay, the BMA has said.

The new regulations will help highlight the scale of the problem, Anthea Mowat, BMA representative body chair, believes, but they must also be supported by further training, mentoring, and flexible working initiatives.

“Despite recent progress, there is still a long way to go,” she said. “The new reporting requirements should act as a valuable source of information for public sector organisations to highlight the scale of the problem.”

But tackling the gender pay gap will require additional measures, “such as initiatives to encourage women’s leadership training, support such as mentoring, and more flexible working opportunities,” she said.

In 2012 women accounted for 53% of first year medical students, and the figure increased to 55% in 2013.1

Mowat said that, with women making up the majority of medical graduates in recent years, “it’s vitally important that we tackle the root causes of the gender pay gap, and develop a wider programme of work to eliminate it.”

Since 6 April 2017 employers in the UK with more than 250 staff, such as NHS trusts, have been required by law to publish gender pay gap and gender bonus gap information on their own website and on a government website.2

NHS Employers said that the rules apply to NHS staff on Agenda for Change terms and conditions, medical staff, and very senior managers.3 Doctors’ clinical distinction and excellence awards would be regarded as bonus pay under the reporting rules, it said.

Employers are only required to produce overall figures and not information on specific roles, such as publishing separate data on the gender pay gap for doctors.4 They are also not required to give an explanation of their figures.

The pay gap in medicine is greater than that across the working population as a whole. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that, in 2016, female doctors working full time earned 29% less than their male colleagues.5 Across all working adults, women earn 18% less than their male colleagues.6

The gap in medicine is also greater than that among other health workers. There was a 0.2% pay difference between the earnings of male and female nurses working full time, and female pharmacists who worked full time earned 11% less than their male colleagues.

There are also gender inequalities in other elements of doctors’ pay. In 2014, data published by the Advisory Committee on Clinical Excellence Awards showed that men received 85% of the national clinical excellence awards allocated in England and Wales.7

In July last year the health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that he would commission an independent report on how to reduce and eliminate that gap in the medical profession.8 The Department of Health has said that it is working with the BMA and NHS Employers on the report, which is expected to be published by the end of the year.

The BMA has advised its members to ask their employers how they are preparing for gender pay gap reporting and what information they will give.4 It says that once employers have the information, doctors should see how this compares with other similar employers. “Ask your employer about plans to discuss their findings with staff and how they plan to address gender pay differences,” the BMA said.