© Reuters. HSBC’s building in Canary Wharf is seen behind a City of London sign outside Billingsgate Market in London

By Iain Withers and Sinead Cruise

LONDON (Reuters) – HSBC (L:) is facing criticism after its latest gender pay report showed the gap between men and women’s pay in its UK business widened in 2018.

The gender pay gap, which measures the difference between the average hourly salary of men and women, at Britain’s biggest bank grew to 61 per cent in the year to April 2018, up from 59 per cent a year earlier.

The lender – which employs more than 40,000 people in Britain – had the widest gender pay gap of any large British company in 2017..

Nicky Morgan, chairman of Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee, told Reuters: “As if having one of the worst gender pay gap figures in the banking sector wasn’t bad enough, HSBC now appears to have taken a further step in the wrong direction… HSBC should get on with putting this right.”

Under UK law all businesses have to submit their gender pay gap figures annually, shining a spotlight on pay discrepancies.

The average gender pay gap at all banks and building societies in 2017 was 35 percent, compared to 14 percent for all UK companies.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the former chief executive of Virgin Money (LON:), who runs the government-backed Women in Finance charter, said it was unacceptable for HSBC’s gender pay gap to be moving in the wrong direction.

“They need to focus on getting it right. Set targets and make sure they hit them.”

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HSBC said the large gap reflected the fact there were fewer women in senior roles and more in junior ones, reflecting an industry-wide problem.

The bank said it was taking steps to bridge the gap, including targeting an increase in the ratio of women in senior management roles to 30 percent by 2020, from 23 percent today.

It has committed to gender diverse shortlists for all senior roles and promotes shared parental leave and flexible working.

The Fawcett Society, a campaign group for gender equality, said HSBC’s gender pay gap report “doesn’t seem up to the challenge”.

The UK’s largest high street bank Lloyds (LON:) published figures showing its pay gap reduced slightly to 31.5 per cent in the year to April 2018, down from 32.8 per cent the previous year.

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