Suffolk food manufacturer’s bid to close gender pay gap

Muntons' diversity steering team. From left, Craig Dawson, Mary Narey, Harriet Johnson, Katie Lomax,

Muntons' diversity steering team. From left, Craig Dawson, Mary Narey, Harriet Johnson, Katie Lomax, Marina Last, Wioletta Butrynowska and Peter Rutter. Picture: ADRIAN GREEN - Credit: Adrian Green

A Suffolk food manufacturer says it will be making a concerted effort to get more women to take up manufacturing and engineering roles in a bid to bridge the gender pay gap in the sector.

Stowmarket-based Muntons, which supports moves to end the gender pay gap by encouraging more women into higher-paid jobs, says it also wants to get more women into senior management roles.

Muntons’ gender pay gap, based on earnings as at April 6, 2017 is 20.7% (mean) and 19.3% (median).

But the firm, which has set up a diversity steering team, points out that the manufacturing sector as a whole has a higher than average pay gap at 22% (according to EEF figures).

Of more than 10,000 companies which published data by the April deadline, the median pay gap across all sectors was 9.7%.

But manufacturing, and particularly malting, is an industry which is traditionally male-dominated and at Muntons the male/female split as at last year was 78% to 22%.

Head of human resources Eamonn Sparkes said one of the keys to addressing the issue is to encourage more women and girls to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at schools and colleges, and into degrees in engineering, technology and computer science.

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Last year, about three quarters of applicants to jobs at Muntons were men. Many women opted to apply for lower-paid office work. There was a mixture of factors affecting pay, such as the unsocial hours involved in the 24-hour factory operation, he said, whereas the office had a flexi-time system. The company was looking to see what it could do in areas such as shift patterns, as well as working with schools and colleges.

“There are challenges because of the industry we are in - clearly there is scope for improvement,” said group managing director Mark Tyldesley. “There aren’t many female engineers.”

Good staff retention levels also meant lower employee turnover, but the firm was determined to move towards a more diverse workforce, he said. “The whole point of diversity is to get the breadth of everything and to get the best of the talent available.”