Gender, Disability and Ethnicity Pay Gap Reporting at Brunel 


By Dr Jenny Cook, Equality Data Analyst, Brunel University London 

Universities are facing challenges in addressing pay gaps. Data collected for the gender pay gap shows that as a sector we have higher than average pay gaps. ​ Evidence based actions are being published and implemented yet the pay gaps are not reducing or set to reduce for a significant number of years. 

Brunel is proud to be a diverse and inclusive University. We are a medium sized institution with a strong focus on STEM subjects and engineering, employing 2,700 academic, technical and professional staff. Currently we are only required to report on gender pay gaps and the national mean gender pay gap for the sector was 17.3% in 2018 and ours is 18.9% this year so we recognise we are not in a position to boast about our figures, but we are improving year on year so we can say our gaps are going in the right direction! 

We are proactive in our approach to addressing pay gaps and have this year published our ethnicity and disability pay gaps. You can read Brunel’s full Pay Gap Report 2019 here

How we understand these figures is based on what additional data we are using to create a supporting picture and contextual analysis for the development of specific actions and plans. We understand that our data shows we have more women and BME staff in lower paid positions so we have needed to monitor and collect further data to understand our population dynamics at Brunel and where factors that influence pay are coming into force. 

At Brunel we have decided to take an integrated approach to combining different existing datasets that collect equality data at each stage of the employee lifecycle. This means we have considered our pay gap data in line with our recruitment, retention, turnover and promotions data in order to create a richer picture and see where our pay gaps are coming from. 

Linking our equality charter mark applications, HR Systems data, as well as our staff engagement survey has allowed us to get a better understanding of where we need to be more strategic in terms of our provisions to support career progression and development. 


One of our main challenges when being sector leading was that there is little guidance around how ethnicity and disability pay should be calculated. If you are going to publish your ethnicity pay gaps data please do get in touch and we can learn from each other. We have published data on the simplest version of our gaps, but internally we have conducted further breakdowns by ethnicity category and types of disability. With these two characteristics, we also faced difficulty around declaration as we have substantial populations (between 20-30%) who have not declared which means our figures here don’t represent the entire population of our staff. 

We also had to challenge one of the University’s historic bonus payments schemes this year as in previous years due to the way the data was collected, we were unable to report on the payments from our Research Incentive Scheme. Our analysis showed us that it was predominantly positively impacting on senior men in one particular college, so we have phased it out starting last year and implemented a new fairer and more transparent reward and recognition scheme open to all staff. 

Sector benchmarking, sector moves slowly compared with other sectors so when we are advancing ahead of the sector we are still not in line with some of the big firms, but we are pushing! 


We decided at Brunel that reporting on the basic figures would not be sufficient to reduce our pay gaps so we have gone further in setting up several additional analyses as well as consolidating several other datasets into one piece of analysis in order to help us support staff progression, promotion and retention and reduce our pay gaps. 

Specific Innovative Action using our pay gap data. Definitive Outcomes and evidence 
We conducted pay gaps by other protected characteristics as well as gender. Our ethnicity pay gaps are in line with the National figures (20.7% (BUL 2019) compared with 21.7% (UK 2018)) 
Our disability pay gap (10.3 2019) is which is lower than the national average (15.7 UK 2018). 
We are one of the first Universities to publish all three pay gaps and the outcomes of this we hope will improve our reputation as an inclusive employer and student provider. 
We looked at pay gaps by working hours and found a larger gap for part-time staff. As a result of this we have consulted, reviewed, improved and re-launched all our family friendly policies to be more inclusive and above the sector norms in terms of pay, leave and additional policies created around surrogacy, adoption and fertility treatments. We now have an additional 5 days carers leave for all staff and an extra one flexible week for parental/paternity leave ahead of the sector and an increase in uptake of this leave. 
We have conducted and are reporting on departmental pay gaps and breakdown at college level to really understand where we need to take actions more urgently and identify areas of good practice. This data can now be reported at Department and College Management board meetings and published online so all staff are able to ‘own’ their own data and make local changes. 
We identified that the structure of our central offices contributes to gender pay gap reporting due to the high proportion of professional staff and College Deans. We noted the departments with higher gender and ethnicity pay gaps and are working with them specifically to look at their recruitment practices moving forwards, their working cultures and supporting staff progression. 
We collected data on who works flexibly formally and informally We have consulted and refreshed our flexible working policies and provisions. Through Athena SWAN, and our staff engagement surveys it has been reported that up to 80% staff in some departments work flexibly without a formal request in place and we are happy to support this. We understand that creating an inclusive supportive environment means recognizing our employees other responsibilities so we re-launched our flexible working policies and offerings. In the process of developing training for line Managers. We also now include as standard, flexible working and caring responsibilities in our “I am Brunel” Communications and visibility campaign for our current staff role models. 
We are cross checking our actions against our Institutional Athena Swan Bronze award action plans and using it as a framework for change as our self-assessment team represents women and men at all levels across the University. The data reports and outcomes for our Working Families, Stonewall and Athena SWAN charter all overlap slightly so we are able to create detailed internal reports to support HR and submit to our senior decision-making teams more quickly to help inform new policies and improve practices. 
Having self-assessment teams in place for these charters also provides us with champions for EDI across the University and these have been invaluable in our discussions around pay gaps. 
Listen to our staff perspectives by using our engagement surveys and hosting events. We currently hold bi-annual staff engagement surveys and we used our Brunel Voice survey data by protected characteristic and conducted differential analysis to see where each group faces different challenges. This has helped to inform our action development and planning. 
Our BUL Voice survey showed an increase in perception of fair and equal pay but variability by protected characteristics so we are reminded that everyone has different perspectives and we cannot develop a one-size fits all approach. 
We need to make the findings of our pay gap reporting and what this means to staff accessible We have presented our data in different formats to make it accessible to staff as possible for transparency and contributions, we hosted a lunch workshop, a Vice-Chancellors lunch for senior staff and are also presenting at College and Departmental management boards across the University. 
As a university leading the way in additional pay gap reporting it is important to share practice and collaborate with others. In order to share good practice our EDI Data Analyst was accepted to present on the Ethnicity pay gap data at the Advance HE Equality Conference this year in Edinburgh which has unfortunately been cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak. 

For more information please see our pay gaps report published online.