At Unipart Group we have long recognised a workforce which is diverse, gender-balanced, healthy and engaged is key to our ongoing success. The sectors in which we operate have historically attracted and employed more men than women, and we are aware of the challenges of achieving a gender-balanced workforce in this context.
For many years we voluntarily published information on our gender pay gap as part of our corporate responsibility reporting, and we have continually sought ways to reduce our pay gap through encouraging more women to join our businesses and having effective and inclusive talent pipelines; and more widely, have engaged with community partners to promote the study of STEM subjects for young women.
Our approach has resulted in the most senior leadership team comprising a number of women in key operational roles which gives us confidence that it will result in continued longer term improvements.
Our approach is aimed at some of the root causes of the gender pay divide rather than being based on quotas and ‘ticking boxes’, so it will take time to deliver sustainable results. Meanwhile, we will continue to see fluctuations in our gender pay gap numbers which are subject to numerous other variables.
It is the nature of our business that we’ll see continuous and often significant changes to the size and composition of our workforce. During the 2017-18 reporting period, we saw a 30% change in the composition of our workforce with colleagues transferring either in or out of our business. In the 2018-2019 reporting period, we have seen the size of our operational workforce in our largest business division almost double in size as a result of new business. During the 2019-20 reporting period numbers have been relatively stable, although like all businesses in the UK, we have been impacted by the early part of the Covid pandemic. It is widely acknowledged, in general in the UK, women were negatively impacted disproportionately by the economic impacts of Covid. It remains to be seen if this will turn out to be the case across our sectors and, if so, how this might manifest itself.
Our median gender pay gap varies across our businesses from 2.2% to 15.8%, as compared with the national average of 15.5% (Office of National Statistics 2020, Gender pay gap for full and part time workers).
We know that, if we are to continue to be successful and meet the huge challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the pandemic recovery and aftermath of the UK’s exit from the European Union, we need to attract, develop and retain talent that reflects the diversity of society as a whole. To this end, we remain committed to our policies and programmes aimed at achieving a balanced and diverse workforce where everyone is encouraged to do their very best work every day, and has an equal opportunity to be great.
An overview of our pay and bonus gap
As a group of companies, under the new regulations we are required to report separately on each of our legal entities with at least 250 employers – we currently have two such entities as listed below.
Unipart Group Ltd
Difference in pay and bonus between men and women
Distribution of employees across our pay quartiles
Unipart Rail Ltd
Difference in pay and bonus between men and women
Distribution of employees across our pay quartiles
Understanding our gender pay gap
To understand our gender pay gap it’s important to understand our history and growth as an organisation, as well as the trends and challenges of the specific sectors in which we operate.
Unipart Group is a privately-owned company with origins in the automotive sector; latterly expanding into rail and manufacturing. All of these sectors have traditionally attracted more male employees and this is reflected in the composition of our workforce which has a 7:3 male to female ratio.
In addition to this, as an organisation we have generally experienced very low levels of turnover at a senior level. Such low turnover is important to our organisation which invests heavily in the training and long-term development of people, particularly in The Unipart Way (a system which defines our philosophy and way of working); however it also means our plans and activities aimed at increasing diversity at a senior level will take time to deliver results.
Furthermore, we frequently face significant changes in the composition of our workforce over which we have limited control, as a consequence of TUPE transfers in and out of our business that result from business changes. In the 2017-18 reporting period we experienced a particularly significant series of changes of this nature which saw a 30% change in our composition; and during the 2018-19 period we saw the workforce in our largest division almost double in size. During this most recent reporting period (2019-20) our business composition has been relatively stable, albeit we were responding to the challenges presented in the early phases of the Covid pandemic
We know increasing the number of women in our business at all levels is key to tackling our gender pay gap, and to do this we need to increase the number of women who apply for roles with us. We firmly believe in employing the best candidate for each job, consequently our senior female leaders can be confident they are in their role because of their performance and capability, not their gender. In order, therefore, to address the imbalance at a senior level we are choosing to focus our efforts on a range of programmes aimed at attracting more women into our organisation, for example, we have looked hard at the criteria for making it as easy as possible for women and men to balance the demands of family life with work and developing inclusive talent pipelines to develop a more diverse profile amongst our senior leadership teams.
Closing the Gap
Encouraging women across generations into STEM careers
At Unipart we have a long established strategy to ‘Encourage young people into adopting careers in Logistics and Manufacturing’ based on our realisation that, if we are to secure the resources we need to sustain and grow our businesses, we need to take a proactive role in working with and supporting schools and colleges to develop the industry-ready employees of the future.
Our strategy has evolved over a 10-year period and includes programmes to address students aged 10 upward and covering all abilities and backgrounds. Programmes at the younger end of the spectrum focus on raising awareness of how what they are learning in school can be applied to real jobs in manufacturing and logistics. These community programmes are aimed equally at boys and girls, albeit in recent years our manufacturing business elected to work with an all-girls’ school on ‘Go4Set’, a 10-week STEM project for students aged between 12-14 years that forms part of the Industrial Cadets programme.
Levels of engagement in the work carried out in our operational sites increases as the age of the students involved rises, culminating in students using their skills to solve real-life engineering problems in the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering, our joint venture with Coventry University; and 2019 saw us recruit our first female graduate engineer from this exciting collaboration. In addition our Rail division has recruited two female Engineering Apprentices, one at Higher level and one at Advanced level. Although these numbers are relatively small we hope that these young women will serve as role models to other girls and young women considering careers in engineering and manufacturing.
Over recent years we have thoroughly examined our recruitment practices to better understand the applicant profile and enable us to increase the diversity of this profile.
We have taken simple steps such as changing the images used in campaigns to reflect society more widely and we are targeting advertising and other methods of attracting applicants to those methods we have identified give us the most diverse range of applicants.
We have looked hard at the criteria for roles in the operational parts of our business and questioned our own assumptions regarding certain requirements, for example to have previous experience in similar operational environments. More recently we have deployed technology such as gender decoders for our recruitment advertisement. These tools will highlight gender-biased language so we can amend as appropriate to make them gender neutral and more appealing. We use assessment tools and methods from reputable and British Psychological Society accredited sources and are careful to deploy these tools as required for specific roles – rather than simply across the board.
We are very aware of the impact of unconscious bias on individual hiring decisions and require all those who are regularly involved in recruitment decisions (particularly within the HR Function) to undergo Diversity and Inclusion training which aims to remove unconscious bias from our recruitment processes.
In addition we promote our inclusive environment and role modelling of women in senior roles in our business to attract other women.
“Men represent 86.3% of the UK logistics population – so women sit at 13.7% – however in Unipart Logistics Operations, we have 28.7% representation. I know when I talk to external candidates I feel quite proud about being able to list the senior females in our business so this is a particular strength of ours.” Sarah Plumb – Head of Resourcing, Unipart Logistics.
Inclusive talent pipelines
We recognise if we are to close our gender pay gap we need more women – and not just in senior roles. Consequently our commitment to people development applies across our entire workforce at all levels. We have created an employee development philosophy which we call ‘Gate to Great’. This enables each employee to reach his or her full potential at a rate of learning matched to his or her experience and abilities and is based on the premise that, with deliberate practice within a designed system, we all have the potential to be great.
All employees within the business have ‘Gate to Great’ development plans (called their Gate to Great Journey) appropriate to their role and aspirations.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than through our suite of standard development programmes which include:
- Developing Team Leader Programme – operational colleagues developing towards Team Leader roles
- Management Gate to Great – all team Leaders and Operations Managers, functional leaders at junior to middle management level
- Leadership Gate to Great – leadership development programme for more senior leaders
In addition we have specific programmes aimed at developing our talent and future leaders which include:
- Future Leaders Network – development for high potential junior/middle managers and emerging talent
- Leadership Excellence Network – accelerated development for more senior leaders
In addition to these programmes we offer apprenticeships across a range of disciplines including finance, human resources, business improvement techniques, leadership and management, digital, business administration and customer services.
We carefully monitor progression of women in our Company by, amongst other things, tracking how many women work in our operational areas and are developing into leadership roles. One way in which we do this is by tracking the percentage of female team leaders, which currently stands at 29%, which reflects the percentage of women in the business overall and is an improvement over previous years.
We also monitor how many participants in our leadership and senior leadership development programmes are women. This currently stands at 20% and we are considering ways in which we can encourage more of our female employees to put themselves forward for these programmes.
Over the past couple of years the result of this work is beginning to manifest itself at our most senior leadership team level (the Group Leadership Team) where since 2017 the percentage of women has increased from 14% to 27% – a much better reflection of the gender split across our organisation.
Flexible working and family friendly policies
If we are to tackle some of the challenges that underpin the gender pay gap we need to make it as easy as possible for women AND men to balance the challenges of family life with work; in particular after the birth or adoption of a child, or when faced with caring for older relatives or those with long-term health conditions.
We recognised this many years ago and, in addition to part-time and working from home policies, we introduced a Flexible Working Policy long before it became a legal requirement. This enables both men and women to request working patterns and arrangements that enable them to meet the demands of their home life alongside their role in Unipart.
These policies are a strong retention tool and make a significant contribution to improving retention of valuable skills across our organisation.
In addition to this, the start of the pandemic brought with it school closures, the early weeks of a nationwide lockdown and a government requirement to work from home where possible. Our colleagues with school-age children responded extremely well to these challenges with no evidence working and home and home schooling was impacting productivity. We will take the learning from this experience as we continue to develop more innovative family friendly policies in the future.
As a responsible business we recognise our critical role in eliminating the gender pay gap. The insights we gain from our pay gap reporting help us to evolve our programmes, albeit we accept that it will take time for the impact of these programmes to reflect in our pay gap numbers, particularly in light of the very variable nature of our workforce composition.
We’re clear on the benefits of a gender-balanced workforce and gender-balanced leadership teams, and have never believed in appointing women for the purpose of ‘ticking a box’ or achieving a quota. We remain absolutely focused on encouraging more women to apply for jobs in our businesses at all levels and having inclusive talent development pipelines to help address the gender imbalance at the most senior levels of our organisation.
 The gender pay gap isn’t the same as equal pay. Equal pay (the requirement to pay men and women the same for doing the same work or work of equal value) doing the same work or work of equal value) has been a legal requirement for 47 years. The gender pay gap is the percentage difference between average hourly earnings for men and women.
Chairman and Group Chief Executive