The gender pay gap at Avon Fire & Rescue Service ballooned from almost zero to 3.37 per cent in favour of men in the last 12 months.

Male staff were paid an average of £17.79 an hour compared with £17.19 for women on the snapshot date of March 31, 2023 – 60p more.

Last year the hourly rate for female employees was 3p more than men and in 2020/21 it was a mere 1p, so this is the first time in three years that male colleagues have earned more on average.

On the same date in 2020, men received 4.48 per cent more than women.

A report to Avon Fire Authority’s policy and resources committee said: “The pay gap between men and women in the service remains significantly lower than the national average which has declined from 9.7 per cent to 9.4 per cent, which is the same level as in 2017/18, when employers were first required to publish gender pay gap information.

“We will continue to advance equality of opportunity for our female staff by offering development opportunities and raising aspirations for stepping up into leadership roles.

“We will also continue to use positive action initiatives to attract women into the service and people impact assessments to identify and remove all barriers to progression and opportunity.”

It said the main reason for the shift this year was because, despite an increase in female staff in the top-earning quarter of the workforce, most male employees on these highest salaries were uniformed, such as wholetime and on-call firefighters and control staff, and were awarded a seven per cent national pay award.

In contrast, the majority of women in the top 25 per cent of earners were non-operational or “corporate”, working in departments such as human resources, finance and technical services, and were given a lower pay award, which is negotiated locally through an evaluation system.

The report to the committee on Thursday, July 27, said: “A further contribution to changes in the pay gap is due to having an interim male treasurer in this year as opposed to a female treasurer in 2022.

“This can account for an equivalent to approximately 1.5 per cent change in the mean calculations.”

It said a new female statutory finance officer was appointed in May but her salary would not be included until next year’s figures, assuming the postholder is still female on March 31, 2024.

The report said the median pay gap – the middle value when all salaries are listed from highest to lowest – was zero, with both males and females earning an average £16.54 an hour.

It said: “Having a gender pay gap is different to equal pay.

“Equal pay deals with the differences between men and women who carry out the same or similar jobs, or work of equal value.

“The gender pay gap shows the difference in the average pay between all men and women in a workforce.

“It compares hourly rates of pay and any bonuses staff may receive by gender, highlighting any areas of imbalance.”

The report said there were 737 men and 191 women working for the service on March 31.

It said the ethnicity pay gap dropped slightly from 5.56 per cent to 5.4 per cent.

“Although we have seen a slight increase in the percentage of ethnic minority staff in the service over the past 12 months, from 2.7 per cent in 2022 to three per cent in 2023, the overall numbers remain low,” the report said.

“This further adds complexity to the task of gathering and analysing data, due to the greater breakdown of classifications required to provide meaningful insights about existing disparities and how to reduce or remove them.

“Further analysis of ethnicity pay data has revealed that any staff movement in the workforce, such as recruitment, resignation, promotion, or assignments, can lead to notable changes in the salary pay gap results.”

 Adam Postans