The University of Leeds pays women a lot less than it pays men.

But this is not the only group of colleagues not being properly compensated for the valuable work they do. The University does not publish data for race and disability gaps, but we expect they are similar to the national averages – a race pay gap of 17% and a disability pay gap of 9%.

These are statistics that all universities, including Leeds, should be ashamed of.

Race pay gap

There is no requirement for universities to publish their race pay gap, but we do know from our Black and ethnic minority members that in their experience the gap is significant, caused by discriminatory practices in recruitment, promotion etc. Sector-wide statistics and reports produced by UCU also paint a bleak national picture.

Genuine and sector-wide progress on this would make a big impact on the lives and careers of Black staff, and would be a good start to the wider issue of tackling racism.

Disability pay gap

Similarly, disabled staff are significantly disadvantaged. One factor in this is that disabled staff are more likely to work part time, and part time roles are often lower paid. Some disabilities may also mean a reduced ability to work continuously or long hours so high workloads exclude or deter some colleagues from applying for certain positions or promotions. Intersecting gender and race identities can exacerbate this gap.

Gender pay gap

The mean gender pay gap reported by the University for 2019-2020 is 18.5% (see published data) meaning women earn 86p for every £1 that men earn when comparing median hourly pay. This is significantly worse than the Higher Education average gender pay gap of 15.1% and the national gender pay gap of 11.9%. UCU has estimated that it would take 40 years to close the gender pay gap at recent rates of progress. This clearly isn’t good enough, and the UCU pay claim in 2018 included the need for genuine and meaningful action on this issue but the employers refused to engage with UCU in serious talks at a national level. The situation in 2021 is sadly no different.

The university publishes annually a report and recommendations on the gender pay gap, as it’s required to by law. This was not required during 2020 due to the pandemic, but you can take a look at the 2018-19 report and the high-level figures provided for 2019-2020.

UCU submitted a gender pay claim to the University of Leeds in August 2018. We are calling on the university not just to reduce the gender pay gap, but to end it. There is no excuse for a serious, respected institution, with a wealth of knowledge within it about how structural inequality works, to have not sorted this out by 2019.

Working for free? An 18.5% pay gap is equivalent to women at the University of Leeds working for 47 days for free. So effectively it’s not until 9th March (the day after International Women’s Day) that women start getting paid. Put another way, if a woman works 7½ hours a day (see also, workloads…), we’ll be working for free after the first 6 hours and 5 minutes.

UCU has tried to get sector wide commitments on this

Last time we were in dispute with the employers over equality, in 2019/20, we were starting to see some progress towards a national framework, binding on all HE employers, rather than vague wishy washy promises and more ‘working parties’. That was abandoned by employers when the pandemic struck in March 2020 and UCU called off further strikes. We need to push them back to meaningful, agreed action to tackle the injustice of the ethnic, gender and disability pay gaps, and also to take proper account of the impact of intersectionality. This is one of our Four Fights, and one of the areas where the employer body (UCEA) is refusing to negotiate. It’s related to pensions too, because pay inequality lasts throughout life into retirement – lower pay leads to lower pension – the discrimination effect is lifelong.

What’s happening at this university?

In her blogpost on gender discrimination, the Vice-Chancellor said she would like to be an ‘agent of change’ on matters that disadvantage women and other intersecting identities that increase risk of discrimination. And the ‘Fairer Future’ rhetoric includes “working through collaboration to tackle inequalities”. Leeds UCU is pushing to get actual meaningful action to match this commitment. But even if good things happen here, it’s important that the same happens sector wide.  If the VC is serious about these commitments, we would argue she should use Leeds’ influence to get UCEA to change their attitude to equalities issues.

Outside of these ongoing discussions, there are other initiatives happening: several colleagues at the University have worked hard to support women’s career development which has been recognised through a Bronze award under the Athena SWAN Charter.

UCU has also been pressing for years for the university to sign up to the Race Equality Charter (which is a sister charter to Athena Swan). The University has finally agreed to this request, which will need to lead to the creation of detailed plans to tackle race inequality. 

Want to work with UCU Leeds on these issues?

If you would like to get involved with branch work on pay gaps and other equalities issues, you would be very welcome to join the branch Equality Working Group.  Just email

Latest updates on pay gaps

This page was last updated on 30 November 2021