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Gender pay gap widens in waste management sector

Paul Bennett - Reliable Skip

Waste management is considered a key service and covers the collection, management and processing of waste streams from inception to final disposal, for both residential and commercial industry. Traditionally a male-dominated industry, the stereotype of the industry has made significant positive change over the last decade. In recent years however, there has been a major u-turn.

The Gender Pay Gap (GPG) is looks at the average pay across a sector and is based only on gender. It does not take into consideration job position, current markets or location. A Government initiative implemented in 2018 requires all companies with more than 250 employees to publish data on their employees in the UK and gender pay.

Recent statistics published by the Office of National Statistics from the 2018 Census reported that the waste management industry was one of only 3 industries in the UK where women earn more than men. Looking at this data broadly, it suggests that this is due to a large proportion of the workforce in lower paid roles are male, such as waste collection operatives, however in 2018 waste management still achieved a median of 6.9%.

A major Gender Pay Gap failure in the Waste Management Industry

The latest reports from the ONS show that in 2021, the Gender Pay Gap has increased by a staggering 10% since 2018, which now stands at 14.3%. The average wage for men stands at £22.05 per hour vs. women at £18.89 per hour.

The latest report drives major concerns that equality in the workplace has taken a considerable leap backwards in the last 5 years.

Why has the gender pay gap in the waste management industry increased so dramatically?

2020 marked the beginning of a global pandemic which had a significant impact on the waste management industry. Skip hire companies reported the largest increase in demand for residential skips on record, with demand peaking in mid 2020.

Restrictions on waste processing, landfill sites and ever-inflating property prices are contributing to an imbalance of supply and demand.

Paul Bennett, HR Director of Reliable Skip Hire, a national skip hire company stated:

“The months of lockdown where the housing market nearly ground to a halt, international travel prevented annual holidays and boredom say a huge spike in residential customers requiring skip hire for household clearances, DIY renovation and garden projects. Demand was so high that we were unable to meet demand in some areas and we actually had to significantly cut down marketing budgets to reduce the volume of enquiries.”

During recent years, many waste management companies have been unable to keep up with the unprecedented rise in demand and the sector is now in a position where demand is outweighing supply. Coupled with the HGV driver shortage across the UK and the red diesel ban, businesses are looking to cut costs and automate processes wherever possible.

One consideration as to why the Gender Pay Gap has increased over the past 5 years is that traditional administrative, customer service and marketing roles are being replaced by technology which is driving an increase in efficiency in an effort to reduce costs.

In April 2022, the Government announced an eco-initiative to blanket ban the use of red diesel in plant machinery, except in very limited circumstances. This has resulted in waste transfer stations which process the waste, incurring a 66% rise in costs to operate machinery overnight. This increase has been directly passed on to the end consumers with an average 10% increase in the cost of skip hire and bin collections.

What’s likely to happen to the Gender Pay Gap over the next 5 years?

The shift in global economy moving towards a work from home environment is likely to aid in the reduction of the gender pay gap. Whilst the waste management sector has traditionally been very slow to adopt to economic change, the opportunity of increasing the selection pool for the workforce is a great opportunity to increase gender equality and diversity. Many roles within the sector do not require employees to travel to an office and the increase in demand is likely to open up more opportunities for customer service based roles which can be fulfilled from home.

Further increases in costs, as we have seen in 2022 with the red diesel ban, are for the most-part being directly passed on to the end consumer and this is likely to continue with the current energy crisis.

As demand in the sector begins to cool down to pre-COVID levels, skip hire companies and waste management firms which have had to invest in new machinery to handle the demand are likely to find that they have a surplus of vehicles and containers which are not being fully utilised. As a result, positions which were cut during the past few years are likely to re-open as marketing departments increase advertising budgets.

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