Scottish banks, builders and utility companies dominate a list of firms with larger than average pay gaps, we can reveal.

Ahead of the introduction of new rules to force employers with more than 250 workers to report gender pay gaps, Scottish companies have submitted returns to the Government Gender Pay Gap Service.

The Ferret looked at the first 110 Scottish organisations to submit data, among them some of Scotland’s largest firms.

34 of these firms were found to have gender pay gaps larger than the Scottish national average identified by the Office of National Statistics of 16.1 per cent.

Scottish charity Close the Gap said that the data confirms a gender pay gap is “endemic” in Scotland’s labour market.

An Ayrshire building firm called James Frew ltd  has reported the largest pay gap in Scotland so far. It claims to be one of the largest privately owned building services companies in Scotland. Women employed by the firm typically get paid less than half of what men earn.

Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools (ESMS), which claims to be the largest group of independent schools in Europe, reported a pay gap of 42.4 per cent in its predominately female workforce of more than 500 staff.

ESMS Bursar, Jonathan B Molloy said that the number of the higher-paid jobs in these schools was more evenly split between genders but that women make up the bulk of lower-paid roles.

Molloy said: “The predominance of either low-paid jobs like the cleaning jobs tend to have more female applicants than male, and also the amount that are predominately childcare positions are likely to be more attractive to female than to male. But whenever we have a vacancy we advertise it and appoint the best person for the job.”

Molloy said there is not much ESMS can do to lower the median pay gap other than to outsource lower paid staff such as cleaners, or to employ more men in lower paid jobs.

“…we believe there is equal opportunity for all jobs from the most senior to the most junior,” Molloy added.

Tanning chain Indigo Sun also attributes its pay gap to a predominately female workforce, with the majority of its male staff occupying management positions – a common issue among many large firms.

“As you can imagine the company has a larger proportion of female to male employees due to the nature of the business,” said managing director Frank Taylor.

“The pay gap does not arise from males and females doing the same job as all staff in the salons are paid equally.

“We employ more female than male staff in front line operations which distorts the hourly rate as the majority of males included in the calculations are in management roles.”

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Major financial firms and utilities have some of the largest pay gaps.

Financial service companies to report significant gender pay gaps include Standard Life, RBS, Clydesdale Bank, Lloyds Banking Group and Standard Chartered Bank.

Kerry Christie, chief people officer at Standard Life Aberdeen, acknowledged that the bank’s gender gap is a problem but said that a plan was in place to close it.

“We know that the gender pay figures we have published show we need to take action,” she said.

“We believe sustainable progress comes from growing a gender balanced workforce at all levels of our business. While this approach takes time, we have a strategy in place and are targeting interventions to accelerate closing this gap over the next few years.“

An RBS spokesperson said: “It’s clear that we still have much work to do to reduce our gender pay gap but we’re committed to getting more women into senior roles so that we can narrow this gap significantly.

“In order to address the lack of women in senior roles, we set ourselves a target to have women in at least 30 per cent of our top three most senior levels across each of our business areas by 2020.”

Anna Ritchie Allan, executive director of Close the Gap, said: “Pay transparency is an important first step towards addressing the systemic inequality that women face at work. Close the Gap has welcomed the new reporting regulations, but they don’t go far enough because employers aren’t required to take action that will close their pay gap.

“Close the Gap’s preliminary assessment of pay gap reporting found that only a very small minority had published an action plan, and most contained actions that were unmeasurable and unlikely to create change.

Allan added: “Employers need to look below the headline figure and identify why there are differences. The problem is wider than pay systems, companies have to look at the types of jobs men and women are doing. They have to examine how workplace culture impacts on men and women differently, and then change their practice to ensure that that women are not disadvantaged.

“We know that employers need additional support to develop effective responses that will close their pay gap. Our free online tool, Close Your Pay Gap, helps employers to identify why they’ve got a pay gap, and more importantly what they can do about it.”

FFS Explains: The gender pay gap in Scotland

On International Women’s Day The Ferret identified 28 Scottish public bodies with a gender pay gap greater than the national average.

James Frew Ltd were invited to provide a comment for this story, but none had been received at the date of publication.

Research by Ally Tibbitt. Additional reporting by Jamie Mann. Illustrations by Chris Manson.