Introduction from Caroline Wayman, chief ombudsman & chief executive

At the start of 2021, I reflected on how brilliantly our people stepped up to the challenges of the past year, and continue to do so.

The progress we’d already made in supporting people to balance their commitments inside and outside work meant we could go even further when it really mattered – and meant we could keep delivering our service.

In this report, you’ll hear from our people about their experiences in lockdown – as parents, partners, friends and carers – while helping our customers with their own challenges.

Real lives

All over the world, 2020 laid bare people’s vulnerabilities, inequalities, and financial pressures. But it was also a catalyst for change.

Disruption meant people had to pull together – being flexible, pragmatic, and doing their very best in demanding situations.

Colleagues worked in their bedrooms or on the sofa. On video calls they were joined by pets or kids – sometimes both. People at home understood more about what their parents, partners or flatmates did for a living. It didn’t always run smoothly, but felt like life.

But separated from normal daily routines, friends and loved ones, looking after our own wellbeing wasn’t easy.

There have been times when I’ve really felt that, and been grateful for all the support available to everyone at the ombudsman service.

Difficult conversations

Covid-19 wasn’t the only significant event of 2020. The issue of racial injustice was also brought into sharp focus – something which, sadly, has impacted many of our people. 

In previous reports, we’ve talked about the culture we’ve nurtured of having conversations about difficult topics. The death of George Floyd was one of those topics.

The Let’s Talk About Race sessions, run by our Embrace network and our inclusion and wellbeing team, gave people a platform to share their experiences of racism and helped us understand where we can do more.

Keeping up the momentum on these conversations, continuing to ask ourselves tough questions, and exploring the areas where we aren’t as good as we want to be, remain extremely important.

This year we’re publishing our ethnicity pay gap for the first time. Though our overall ethnic diversity is one of our strengths, we’re clearly disappointed with a median pay gap of 16.1%, and a mean gap of 24.5%.

But out of that disappointment comes a determination to do everything possible to close it, and with a lot of initiatives already underway, and more analysis in train, efforts will focus on where they’ll have maximum impact.

This will be especially important as the service concludes its mass payment protection insurance casework, and changes to prepare for future challenges.

A thank you

Whether focused on the pandemic, race, or other challenges, the stories here make for an inspiring read. They show the ombudsman service at its best – and why it’s been such an honour and a privilege to lead it for almost seven years.

It’s clear to me that we’ve made significant and important strides in embedding diversity, inclusion and wellbeing in that time. Our people rate our inclusivity as the thing they most value about working here – I’m so proud of that, and of the people who make our ambitions an everyday reality. I know that this excellent work will continue.

I’d like to thank everyone at the service for the commitment and professionalism they’ve shown during this exceptional year. It’s been a brilliant expression of the culture and values that remain at the heart of the service as it embarks on the next phase of its journey – and which I’ll carry with me as I do the same.

Remembering Juliana Francis

In early 2021 we lost our friend and long-time colleague, Juliana Francis. Juliana was our head of diversity, inclusion and wellbeing, a hugely experienced ombudsman, and the driving force behind embedding inclusivity across the service and the creation of this report three years ago.

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing are more than words – they’re about humanity, fellowship, and championing the change we want to see. Juliana epitomised that spirit.

She leaves a gap at the service we can’t fill, but her vision and values live on. The progress we celebrate here embodies the energy, challenge, focus, joy and passion Juliana brought to everything she did. She was an inspiration to so many, and we miss her very much.

Caroline Wayman, chief ombudsman & chief executive
March 2021

Read about:

  • How we're responding to Covid-19: Our diversity, inclusion and wellbeing commitments became more important than ever in the pandemic, and helped shape our response. But the experience hasn’t been the same for everyone.
  • How we're stepping up: World events of 2020 put issues of diversity, inclusion and wellbeing firmly in the spotlight. More people than ever realised they had a part to play – whatever their background – in recognising unfairness and inequality.
  • Our progress: Read about our action plan, our staff diversity and our commitment to gender equality.

Responding to Covid-19

Our twin priorities throughout the pandemic have been protecting the wellbeing of our people and continuing to provide the service our customers need. The need for a shift to remote working brought particular challenges.

A new way of life


monitors provided to our people to help them work from home


office chairs we recycled by delivering to people’s homes


virtual workplace assessments done by our property team

In March 2020, it became clear that the rapidly-spreading virus meant we were facing an extended period of not being able to safely work in our offices.

We’ve offered flexible working for many years. We know our people value the work/life benefits it brings, and it’s enabled us to attract a broader spectrum of talented people with a diverse range of backgrounds. And shortly before the pandemic, we’d begun our rollout of smarter working – giving our people improved technology and flexibility to work in ways that mean they can still deliver an excellent service, whether remotely or in the office.

Both gave us head starts, but the pandemic created wholly new challenges. Suddenly, the often significant differences in people’s home circumstances had a big impact on their ability to work remotely. Shared flats, small spaces, family, pets, flatmates and partners were the reality of people’s new working world.  

This meant we had to do as much as we could to level the playing field, whether by providing our people with technology and chairs, extending our carers’ and dependents’ paid leave, or encouraging flexible hours to help with home-schooling, so we could help our people to continue to perform at their best, in the most difficult times we and our customers had ever faced.

The pandemic has also had a significant impact on many of the people using our service – sometimes causing, and sometimes exacerbating extremely difficult situations that leave them vulnerable to detriment. In October 2020, we expanded our additional support area, so we now have two teams dedicated to handling complaints from people in the most challenging circumstances.

Lockdown stories

Being a carer - Elizabeth

I’m the only other one here so if anything needs doing, it’s me that does it

“I care for my husband and although he’s quite independent, I’m the only other one here. So if anything needs doing, it’s me that does it. Lockdown put a lot of extra stresses on people. Not being able to spend time together was difficult. I became a grandmother for the first time, and that was wonderful – but I haven’t been able to see my granddaughter much.

But there have been positives, like being at home all summer and going for walks. My husband and I have discovered things where we live that we would never have before. People have been much kinder and more empathetic. Our neighbours had a barbecue and shared food with us over the fence, and I’ve found people in supermarkets much more chatty – it’s not all moaning, although I’ve done my fair share!

At work every employee group has put something on to put people in touch with each other, and we’ve had so much support from HR – there’s lots of advice online about wellbeing and looking after yourself.

I’ve had a couple of carers’ days, thanks to the extra leave that the service provides. I’m a hands-on carer because it’s all the time, but I also wanted to make sure I’m paying my husband attention. 

We’re very conscious that it can be harder for our customers who aren’t online. It’s important to remember that not every generation is online savvy and won’t have felt as connected as others have. It’s important to ensure these people aren’t excluded. During their lifetime everybody’s circumstances change. As you get older, having to care for your parents becomes more likely. For organisations like ours that can give support at such times, they do get the best out of people.”

Being a single parent - Heather

The effect of lockdown on working parents has been huge – for single parents, it’s been monumental

“Under normal circumstances, being a single working parent is hard-going – trying to balance everything so you aren’t letting anyone down or missing anything.

At the start of the first lockdown in March 2020, my children were two and three and required round-the-clock supervision. Initially, I felt that I had been given the gift of time back with my girls. But as time went on, I was struggling to balance the requirements of my role with the requirements of me as a parent.

I replaced their whole social circle and became their teacher, friend, nurse and entire family unit. The effect of lockdown on working parents has been huge – for single parents, it’s been monumental.

When you’re a single working parent in lockdown, the reality is that there are no breaks. Not with cooking the dinner, bathtimes, bedtimes, tantrums, cleaning up the house, doing the shopping or paying the bills.

So, the service’s parents’ network and additional dependents’ days were a lifeline – I don’t know how I’d have coped without them. It’s critical to our values that we make sure people aren’t struggling alone and that employees feel that they are able to speak out and get support where they need it. I value our culture where it’s okay to say things are difficult and people respond with genuine compassion and empathy.

I’ve got more time back now I’m not commuting, and can base my work around the kids. Now I get to put them to bed every night, and I’m the first person they see when they get up. These are the most precious years there are with your kids. You can’t put a price on that.”

Being a carer - Zamin

I didn’t recognise myself as a carer until I came to the ombudsman service

“I was an inquisitive child, and would listen to my parents’ conversations. I realised that they had health problems and that I’d need to care for both of them one day. Then when I was 17, my father passed away. The duties were almost immediate – taking care of bills, medical matters, and how we would sustain ourselves as a family.

I used to work in an organisation where my boss didn’t understand the demands I had as a carer. If there was an emergency, my manager would ask why I couldn’t take care of it after my shift. I would have to use my annual leave to take my mum to her appointments, and I didn’t have any time left over for myself. That affected me psychologically, physically and mentally.

I didn’t recognise myself as a carer until I came to the ombudsman service. Then I realised I had an employer that recognised carers’ responsibilities. On her own initiative, my ombudsman leader noticed I was a carer, and tried to understand what my life looked like outside work.

Last year, the organisation increased the carers’ leave allowance during the pandemic to ten days. I did need the extra time because a lot more needs started to arise during the pandemic. The organisations that support my mum and I had fewer staff – you end up spending a lot more time on hold on the phone, for example.

One of the biggest positives has been knowing that if there’s an emergency, I can deal with it in a few minutes. So I’m very grateful to the service for the support. Caring is a responsibility much like work is a responsibility – and I’m grateful that I can balance both of them.”

Shielding – Katie

I know people are in much worse situations than me – all I’ve had to do is stay at home

“2020 was the year I didn’t leave my house for three months.

I’m on immunosuppressants because I had a kidney transplant in 2019, and when Covid-19 arrived in the UK I knew it would only be a matter of time before I was told I’d be in the ‘at risk’ category.

I knew it was for the best, but when I was first told I’d have to not leave my house for 12 weeks, my old life of commuting to London, working in an office, seeing friends and going out, started to feel like a dream.

I worried about my parents, both of whom have underlying health problems, and my father-in-law, who was about to undergo treatment for cancer. And I worried about what the virus would do to people’s lives.

But when I wasn’t worrying, or working, I realised I had more time to myself to check in on friends and family, and enjoy the peace and quiet of sitting in my garden. I used to spend four hours a day on trains, now I could spend it reading or cooking or watching films. I started to feel lucky.

It was really helpful that the service provided me with a large monitor, as much of my work involves editing and proofreading. Having regular catchups with my team, and joining in with network events and webinars helped me feel connected to colleagues and the service more widely.

I’ve got friends working on the NHS front line, and others whose livelihoods have disappeared because the industry they work in has gone. I know people are in much worse situations than me – all I’ve had to do is stay at home. But the support we’ve had has really helped.”

Looking ahead

Covid-19 may have accelerated a shift in the way people work. We want to make sure we use it as an opportunity to create positive change.

Organisations across the world have been re-thinking their physical office space needs, and the role that the office will play in the future. And we’re no different. We’ll apply what we’ve learned from this experience, from smarter working, and from other organisations, to our future plans.

We’re also mindful that being able to bring people together in one place has benefits that are difficult to replace – particularly those related to social interaction, a feeling of belonging, wellbeing, knowledge sharing, and learning.

We’re continuing to explore potential options and models for future ways of working, that focus on our physical property, smarter working, and our digital capability.

Our networks


of our people said a network event had given them awareness of a culture or experience different to their own


events run by our networks in 2020, including wellbeing webinars


new support groups launched: cancer and neurodiversity

External recognition:

  • Best Diversity and Inclusion Strategy at the HR Excellence Awards
  • Inclusive Culture Award, and Overall Winner (public sector) – Joint Winner, at the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei) Awards
  • Employee Network Group of the Year – Embrace network, at the Inclusive Companies Awards

In 2020, despite not being together physically, our staff networks have had more of an impact than ever – in the support they’ve provided to colleagues, each other and the wider community.

Our racial and cultural awareness network Embrace was honoured for the second year running with an award for its work, demonstrated in its communications and Let’s Talk About Race events, attended by hundreds of colleagues.

As the pandemic unfolded, our mental wellbeing network continued to provide opportunities for people to talk about how they were feeling – training more mental health first aiders, and delivering both mental health first aid and their regular drop-in sessions online.

We’ve seen more people attend networks’ events, which have all been run virtually. The year saw the launch of our neurodiversity group (to raise awareness of variation in the brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood and other mental functions), and disability event #purplelightup – our biggest event of the year, attended by almost 400 people.

Our Enable network held an event on shielding during lockdown, our LGBT+ network held a virtual Pride, our Muslim network gathered to discuss inclusivity at work, and our Jewish and Christian networks collaborated to raise awareness of Yom Kippur.

Our Giving Something Back committee organised ‘Ombudsrun’ races, ‘crafternoons’, and raised money for our charity partner Papyrus, for its work on suicide prevention among young people. It worked with our local volunteering partner, East London Business Alliance, providing toys for children at Christmas, donating to local foodbanks, and befriending isolated older people by phone and letter.

Stepping up

In May 2020, in the midst of the escalating pandemic, George Floyd was killed in the USA. The impact was felt across the world, and sparked a global examination of racial inequality. As an employer of a diverse workforce, we wanted to respond quickly.

Together against racism

In a video message for the whole organisation recorded shortly after the death of George Floyd, our chief ombudsman & chief executive Caroline Wayman emphasised that we stand together against all forms of discrimination. She encouraged people – many of whom were reliving their own experiences – to come together, share feelings, experiences, and action for change.

Our Let's Talk About Race initiative was already underway, and we stepped it up in response to the murder and the protests that followed. And as we were already working remotely, because of the pandemic, it was especially important to keep connecting with each another.

Although the initial headlines have passed, these issues remain real and present. It’s our responsibility as an employer and a service to keep helping people feel comfortable in sharing their experiences, to build understanding, and to push ourselves to do better. We continue to survey our staff on inclusion and wellbeing matters – to see how they’re coping, and to make sure we support people the best way we can. 

That’s what putting our values into action means to us and requires of us, and how we bring about change.

Conversation with senior leaders

Blind spots, barriers and boldness: how we get to where we want to be

Ombudsman manager Reena Anand and ombudsman leader Constance Chinhengo are co-chairs of our racial and cultural awareness network, Embrace. Here, they talk to principal ombudsman, quality director and executive sponsor Richard Thompson.

Constance: In terms of racial awareness and equality, what do you think we’re currently doing well, and where could we be better?

Richard: Our day job is about fairness – treating everyone fairly, whatever their background. We’re a large organisation made up of different cultures, and fortunate to have that as a starting point. We’ve worked hard over the past year on talking about race, inequality and inclusion, and what all those things actually mean.

The sessions we ran last autumn for all managers across the service helped facilitate discussions in their teams, and external speakers came to talk to us about achieving equality in the workplace – it’s not enough to be ‘not racist’, it’s about re-thinking the systems we have in place and creating equal access to opportunity.

I wouldn’t say we, as an organisation, have nailed everything completely, but it definitely feels like we’re in a different place to where we were twelve months ago when it comes to understanding these things. Our perceptions have shifted quite fundamentally.

Constance: Do you get a sense that it’s one thing knowing that discrimination and racism is wrong, and another to understand the different levels at which it might operate? Are people beginning to understand that?

Richard: Over the last year, it’s been more in our consciousness than ever. In every decision we make or every meeting we’re in, we’ve been focused on ensuring we’re truly being inclusive and valuing diversity of both background and thought.

I’ve personally been reflecting on microaggressions. That drip-feed, which sends certain signals to some colleagues and different signals to others. “Micro” underplays the impact: it’s the daily lived reality that becomes the sum of people’s experience, and can make a profound difference to people’s thinking and the choices they make.

Reena: It seems like a lot of the things we want to happen will require some brave decisions and stepping out of our comfort zone. Are we prepared to try things we’ve never tried before?

Richard: When you’re in a sizeable organisation, it can be difficult to make changes quickly. But if anything’s come out of the last year, it’s how quickly we can respond to the unknown and adapt to new situations. If you’d asked pre-pandemic how long it’d take to transition the service to fully remote working, you’d have been given a long timetable. In the event, we shifted in a week, with many colleagues never having worked from home before!

That should make us feel bold about trying new things. So we’re currently looking to get more Black, Asian, and minority ethnic colleagues into senior management positions, working on talent management in underrepresented groups, and – recognising our responsibilities as an employer as well as a service – we’ve updated our unreasonable behaviour policy to make our people to feel more supported if they experience discrimination or unreasonable behaviour.

Constance: You’ve talked about how much better we want to be but do you think we’re focused on the right things? Do you think some of the things we have in play now will support how we get there?

Richard: I’m very aware that as a white middle-aged man there are likely to have been fewer barriers for me in my life and my career. If there’s one thing we could crack to make a difference, it’s ensuring that all colleagues, regardless of background or lived experience, feel like they have the same chances. Our HR team is focused on understanding what the data is telling us about progression, and what more we can do to make a real difference.

Ensuring talented people make careers here, whatever their background, is something we must focus on as we look ahead. Mass complaints about payment protection insurance (PPI), the issue that drove our widescale recruitment, and to a large extent made us a more diverse organisation, are now coming to an end. Even though we’re in a totally different place now to when PPI started, diversity remains front of mind as we plan for the future.

Constance: I was thinking about who I am mentoring at the moment, and how sponsorship and networking often help with progression. What are your reflections on that?

Richard: That’s an interesting point. At the moment, everyone is busy juggling both work and home life, and remote working makes sponsorship harder. I’ve been thinking about the longer-term impacts of lockdown – all our worlds have contracted and it’s now much more difficult to engage with people who aren’t in our established networks.

We’ve lost the unplanned opportunities and interactions you get from simply working in the same space. Many have come up with creative ideas and ways to replicate that as best we can, but we all have to work to find those opportunities. It raises important questions about the support we may need to give people at the moment. I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from having an advocate in a previous job, so I recognise what’s at stake. We need to think about how we balance the benefits of flexible working, and the benefits of contact.

Reena: We’ve often talked about the importance of our service reflecting the diversity of voices that come to us for help. It’s one thing to listen but it’s another thing to be heard – what does that mean for us as a service?

Richard: It’s a core skill for us to be able to listen, and really hear what our customers are telling us.

When we talk about race and diversity, the more we listen, the better we can empathise with others. I think most people start from the right instincts, they wouldn’t wish someone to be treated differently. The problem is our blind spots, the things we haven’t faced or even thought about, because we haven’t had to deal with those barriers ourselves. But by talking and listening, you improve your chance of being able to do something about it.

As an executive team, we have a responsibility to show that this is more than just words – it’s committing to understanding the issues, and driving the change that we want to see. It’s right that people hold us to account on this, and keep us focused on the job in hand.

Our ethnicity pay gap

16.1% for median pay (2019: 17.9%)

24.5% for mean pay (2019: 28.6%)

Few organisations currently publish their ethnicity pay gap. This year, we’ve chosen to do so, because our values and commitment to fairness mean we want to be transparent about how things stand, and what we’re doing to improve.

Over the last ten years, our organisation had to transform in size and structure due to the scale of the PPI mis-selling scandal. To meet this challenge, we drew on the wide and diverse pool of talented people who could access our base in East London, and from that point our service became increasingly ethnically diverse. 

Today, nearly four in ten of all our people are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. This is much higher than many public and private organisations, and something that we’re proud of. Our diversity is one of our strengths. 

So we’re disappointed that our data indicates we have an ethnicity pay gap – a difference in average hourly pay for white people compared to those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Based on the same 5 April 2020 snapshot date as our gender pay analysis, our ethnicity pay gap was 16.1% for median pay and 24.5% for mean pay.

What is a pay gap?

A pay gap is not the same as equal pay, whether for gender or ethnicity. An organisation's pay gap reflects the profile of its workforce, and typically the difference between what various groups of people earn, irrespective of their role or seniority. Equal pay is the legal requirement for people to be paid the same for performing the same work.

We have relatively fewer people from a Black, Asian, and minority ethnic background in senior roles, and fewer who have been here a long time. We’ve done analysis of equal pay at grade level and are confident we don’t have an equal pay issue.

What’s creating the pay gap, and how are we closing it?

It’s likely that part of this disparity is rooted in the transformation of our service described above. Length of service tends to correspond with higher pay, and of those colleagues who have been with us the longest, a smaller proportion come from minority backgrounds. Part of today’s picture, then, reflects a past when we were a less diverse organisation. And as our mass PPI operations conclude, and our service changes again, we expect that this may also change our diversity.

But our early analysis suggests this doesn’t account for all of the gap. We don’t yet have the full picture, and have further work to do to explore the data, understand what it tells us about the causes of the gap, and to take targeted and meaningful action to close it. 

In the meantime, we have a number of interventions underway as part of our action plan. To help us do more, we are committed to:

  • Better understanding the underlying factors that have a bearing on career progression and length of service.
  • Better understanding the relationship between ethnicity and performance and appraisal ratings.
  • Evaluating whether to have a specific target for more Black, Asian, and minority ethnic representation among our senior leaders.

We know that the results of the steps we’re taking, and plan to take, may take some time to show in our data. We’re committed to doing all we can, as soon as we can, to ensure everyone at our service has the same opportunities to flourish and succeed.

Our ethnicity pay gap – more detail   

Pay 2020 2019
Difference in median pay  16.1% 17.9%
Difference in mean pay 24.5% 28.6%
Difference in median bonus pay 0% 0%
Difference in mean bonus pay 10.3% 17.2%
Pay – BAME breakdown White Asian Black Mixed Other
Difference in median pay n/a 16.7% 16.6% 11.5% 26.3%
Difference in mean pay n/a 26.0% 25.9% 14.6% 21.9%
Difference in median bonus pay n/a 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Difference in mean bonus pay n/a 10.1% 11.2% 7.6% 13.9%
Proportion of White and BAME employees who received a bonus  80.7% 78.8% 78.7% 78.0% 74.4%
Upper pay quartile 82.9% 7.4% 4.7% 3.7% 1.3%
Upper middle pay quartile 64.6% 21.0% 9.0% 4.5% 0.8%
Lower middle pay quartile 45.6% 30.2% 17.3% 6.0% 1.0%
Lower pay quartile 46.0% 30.0% 16.6% 3.7% 3.6%
Ethnic makeup of the organisation 59.8% 22.2% 11.9% 4.5% 1.7%

(Pay data as at 5 April 2020. Data looks at the average hourly pay rates and actual bonuses paid for white people compared to colleagues from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background. Data includes only those who have reported an ethnicity, including “Other”, and excludes anyone who reported ‘Prefer not to say’ or ‘Not stated’. ‘Ethnic makeup of the organisation’ data differs slightly from our diversity data in ‘the ‘our progress’ section as the data uses a different snapshot day to be comparable with data in previous years’ reports).

Median and mean – what’s the difference?

The median pay gap uses the range of hourly earnings (whether by ethnicity, or gender, in the case of our gender pay), and finds the midpoint. The mean pay gap percentage represents the difference between the mean hourly earnings of each ethnicity or gender. 

The median is usually felt to be a more representative measure of pay gaps, as it is less affected than the mean by very large or very small values.

The data we used for our ethnicity pay gap analysis and gender pay gap analysis was a snapshot of the organisation on 5 April 2020, which is the date required by law for the gender pay gap. 

Our progress

We launched our new inclusion and wellbeing action plan in 2020. Here you can read about what we’ve done so far, and how we plan to build on past achievements. We also take a look at our diversity as a whole, and our commitments on gender equality.

Our action plans – 2016 to today

In 2016 we launched our first three-year equality, diversity and inclusion action plan. It brought our ongoing initiatives together with a new set of commitments to embed equality, diversity, inclusion and wellbeing in everything we do.

What we’ve done

  • Bolstered our focus on diverse recruitment by assessing where we advertise vacancies to ensure a broad reach and diverse mix of candidates.
  • Broadened our set of equality, diversity, inclusion and wellbeing measures with more inclusion questions in our staff survey.
  • Brought together existing policies and practices to support disabled colleagues with workplace adjustments.
  • Established a quarterly forum for employee networks to talk to the executive team.
  • Expanded our equality, diversity and inclusion learning and development offering to include trans awareness, managing mental health, neurodiversity and dignity at work.
  • Embedded equality, diversity and inclusion messages into our regular internal communications, with a focus on communications from senior managers.
  • Improved our employer ranking and worked towards formal external accreditation with partners including the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei) and Stonewall.
  • Built on our existing relationships with external organisations, such as with local charities, to maximise our positive impact.
  • Reported annually on our diversity, inclusion and wellbeing.
  • Committed to the Women In Finance charter and re-signing the Time to Change pledge, Disability Confident, and the Business in the Community Race at Work charter.
  • Committed to a staff engagement campaign to encourage sharing of diversity data in our HR system, to help us better understand our workforce and performance against our commitments.

We’ll also be including a ‘right to review’ clause in contracts with external suppliers where we have questions about a supplier’s equality, diversity and inclusion commitments, and when tendering for new services, ensuring that the chosen supplier mirrors our values.

What we plan to do – our new action plan

Building on the progress we made under our previous action plan, we now want to go further. Our new inclusion and wellbeing strategy and action plan, launched in October 2020, has five main pillars:

  • Inclusive leadership
  • Talent management
  • Resourcing
  • Community and customers
  • Wellbeing of our people

We’re doing a complete review of our inclusion training, including unconscious bias, and considering how we’re consciously inclusive. For example, everyone at the service has just completed mandatory e-learning on gender identity, to help us understand more about the key principles of gender identity and how it differs from other characteristics.

We’ll formalise inclusive leadership in our managers’ and senior managers’ core competencies, development and objectives, creating and embedding diversity dashboards for the executive team to raise awareness of the diversity of their areas.

For managers, we’ll identify learning interventions to reduce bias, and embed inclusion and wellbeing throughout the people-management processes. We’ll help managers to support their people's mental health, with the launch of a new health and wellbeing guide, and provide guidance on how to manage wellbeing proactively. We launched safeguarding e-learning to raise awareness on domestic abuse and how we can support our people.

Understanding more about our ethnicity pay gap will help us understand what interventions will best address it, especially in recruitment, career progression and talent management. We’ll consider what targeted actions could improve career progression opportunities for underrepresented groups, and this will include anonymising the talent development process, introducing blind screening and diverse panels for all roles, and removing management endorsements for internal roles. Our Embrace network will work with Business in the Community on an anti-racism allies programme, and we’ll continue to use surveys and listening tools to understand more about our people’s experiences and respond to them.

Gender equality

Gender pay gap

6.2% for median pay (2019: 6.8%)

5.9% for mean pay (2019: 6.6%)

This year we’ve further reduced our median gender pay gap to 6.2%. We’re pleased with our progress but determined to continue to close the remaining gap.

Pay 2020 2019
Difference in median pay 6.2% 6.8%
Difference in mean pay 5.9% 6.6%
Difference in median bonus pay 0.0% 0.0%
Difference in mean bonus pay 3.5% 5.4%
Pay quartile distribution Female Male
2020 2019 2020 2019
Upper pay quartile 50.7% 50% 49.3% 50%
Upper middle pay quartile 52.8% 50% 47.2% 50%
Lower middle pay quartile 60.7% 60% 39.3% 40%
Lower pay quartile 58.0% 61% 42.0% 39%
Gender makeup of the organisation Female Male
  55.6% 44.4%

(Data as at 5 April 2020)

Women in Finance charter

We’re committed to achieving gender balance at all levels of our service. We’ve set a target of having 50% female representation in our senior roles by December 2023, reflecting the gender balance of the UK as a whole. 

This table shows our gender balance in December 2020, compared with December 2019.

Senior role Female Male
2020 2019 2020 2019
Our senior managers 44% 41% 56% 59%
Our board and executive teams 57% 69% 43% 31%
Both groups together 46% 44% 54% 56%

Through looking at our data, we know that although fewer women apply for senior roles, they tend to be more successful at interview. We’re examining how we attract more women to apply for these roles, and are encouraged by the increasing proportion of senior roles held by women.

We remain signatories to HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter, which over 350 organisations have signed to commit to improving gender diversity at senior levels of the financial services sector.

Our diversity data

Here you can download our staff diversity data for 2020. It’s a snapshot of our staff as at 7 December 2020, covering gender, age, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, and religion.

In the full data download, please note that our ombudsmen may be at manager, senior manager or executive level. People included in “our ombudsman panel” are also included in other relevant columns. “All our other roles” means people who aren’t at manager, senior manager, or executive level. Percentages greater than 0%, but less than 1% are rounded up to 1%. Other percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.