16 Dec 2019

Latest gender pay gap figures reveal extent of diversity challenge facing top UK law firms

Linklaters joins magic circle rival Allen & Overy in reporting its latest gender pay gap numbers with little evidence of progress

Gender pay gap figures released by Linklaters show little change in the measures, with the median earnings gap for all UK staff including partners edging up to 39.1% in favour of men from 37%. The data, provided as part of statutory requirements for businesses to report gender pay gap figures, underline the challenges facing law firms seeking to improve their records.

Linklaters is the second magic circle firm to report its 2019 data after A&O, which also reported a deterioration of its median pay gap, when partners are taken into account.

‘The most significant cause of our gender pay gap remains unchanged and reflects the composition of our workforce,’ said Linklaters. ‘We have more men in the most senior roles and a higher proportion of women in secretarial and junior business team roles, which predominantly fall within our lowest pay quartile.’


In a statement accompanying the data, the firm pointed to a number of initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion, including a recently announced new parent leave policy, which ‘gives any employee whose partner is having a baby via pregnancy, surrogacy or adoption, the opportunity to take 12 weeks of fully paid parental leave at any time during the first 12 months’.

It added that 33% of its new partners across the entire firm this year were female, against a target of 30%.

The firm was also keen to point out that its pay gap per quartile was significantly lower, or even in some cases negative. For example, the pay gap for the lowest quartile, when partners are taken into account, is -4.8%, an improvement on last year’s figure of .7%. Women make up 74% of this quartile. 

It is only in the top quartile – where men account for 60% of the group – that the pay gap is in double figures with the high figure (48%) illustrating the challenge faced by the firm in its drive to even out the discrepancy.

Third year of data

Gender pay gap reporting was introduced in 2017 for organisations with more than 250 employees and represents the difference between the average earnings of men and women, expressed relative to men’s earnings.

In April, the BBC reported that the overall median pay gap in favour of men had fallen slightly from 9.7% to 9.6%. However, at 45% of companies the discrepancy in pay had increased over the past 12 months.

The deadline for law firms to submit their 2019 pay gap reports is 4 April 2020. A&O, which released its gender pay gap figures in September, reported a median pay gap for staff including partners of 43.8% against last year’s figure of 39%.

The firm's message echoed that of Linklaters: 'This year’s report shows that in most cases our pay gaps are moving in the right direction, but we know that year-on-year changes will be fairly small. Significantly reducing pay gaps will take time because they are predominantly a reflection of the make-up of our workforce – with higher numbers of women in business support roles and a larger proportion of men in the most senior positions within the firm.'

Both firms also provided their ethnicity pay gap figures, which are not part of the statutory guidelines. 

At A&O, 14% of staff identified themselves as BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) with a median pay gap – the difference between the middle rate pay for all BAME staff and that of all non-BAME staff – of -32.3%. At Linklaters, the median pay gap was 1.4%.

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