EMA housing reward survey reveals sector is closing the gender pay gap

Housing associations have almost closed the gender pay gap, according to a comprehensive survey on the pay and benefits offered to employees working in the sector carried out by leading consultancy EMA.

While woman are paid 18% less than men across British industry, and the BBC recently revealed only a third of its stars earning more than £150,000 were women, EMA’s 2017 Total Rewards Survey revealed only 3% of housing associations thought they’d have to take action to address a gender pay gap in their organisation.

The 2017 Total Rewards Survey, completed by 118 housing providers in England and Wales, is designed to provide an overview of how pay and benefits are being applied nationally including key information about staff benefits such as pensions, annual leave, car allowances, bonus schemes and flexible working arrangements.

The results showed that 56% of organisations said they would, irrespective of the number of employees, be publishing a ‘Gender Pay Gap Report’ by April 2018, with only 3% envisaging having to make any changes to their reward programme.

The survey, which reveals how rewards paid to employees were affected by the significant political and social changes of the past two years, also found that only 5.6% of organisations did not make a pay award in 2017. This was a marked improvement from the 2016 survey, when 31.5% said they did not make a pay award.

Nearly 60% of respondents said they made a pay award of between 0.5% and 2%. In addition, the survey showed 70% of all employees were eligible to be considered for a bonus or PRP Payment, a rise of 21% compared to last year’s result.

But the 1% rent reduction in England continues to have a significant impact on housing sector budgets, with changes including reducing salaries, restructuring, redundancies and implementing revised terms and conditions of service.

Redundancies made as a direct result of the rent reduction were reported by 28.7% of English organisations, following on from 38% in 2016. Other actions included restructuring (43.6%), amending staff terms and conditions (17%), reducing the development programme (5.3%) and reducing salaries (2.1%).

In addition, there has again been a slight reduction in the number of staff in England and Wales being provided with private health care. This reward was reduced at every employment level, apart from manual employees where 9% of staff receive private healthcare, compared with 8% in 2016.

However, health cash plans, which are significantly cheaper to resource, remain popular within the sector. Around 44% of housing associations provide a health cash plan insurance cover to all of their staff, which is an increase from 2016, and 50% offer reduced health/sports club membership. Almost all organisations (96%) also provide the opportunity for staff to work from home, with 12% having formal contractual arrangements in place for employees to work at home.

Ian Robertson, Executive Director at EMA, comments: “This is our third year of undertaking a comprehensive survey of housing organisations and we believe the results represent the single greatest source of information about pay and benefits in the housing sector. “Since we launched our first survey we have seen major decisions which will have implications for pay and reward including the annual 1% reduction in rents in England over four years, BREXIT and a new Government.

“It remains clear from the results of the 2017 survey that housing associations have been challenged by these political and social changes, and they have told us that affordability continues to be the key factor in determining pay awards.

“But they will need to remain competitive with the private sector and it’s encouraging that housing associations are ahead of the rest of the country in addressing the gender pay gap as well as almost all organisations being able to make pay awards in 2017.”

The 2017 Total Rewards Survey, commissioned by EMA, was completed in July 2017 by 118 English and Welsh housing associations managing between less than 1,000 units to over 50,000 units.

For further information on the 2017 survey please contact Lorna Lee on 01926 887272 or email lorna.lee@emaconsult.co.uk