SSE has come under fire in Parliament over the size of its gender pay gap.

While being cross-examined by MPs on the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee, the big six utility’s chief commercial officer Stephen Forbes was challenged on a figure showing a 19.4 per cent mismatch between the sums paid to male and female staff at the company.

While quizzing utility chiefs on the government’s energy price cap plans, committee member Antoinette Sandbach also highlighted a figure showing that while 44 per cent of male staff receive bonuses at SSE, only 12 per cent of female employees do so.

The committee’s chair Rachel Reeves said the 19.4 per cent pay gap was “exceptionally high”.

Speaking after the committee, an SSE spokesperson said the MPs had been confusing enterprise gender pay gap reporting, which compares male and female salaries across a business, with men and women being paid different salaries for equivalent roles. The 19.4 per cent figure refers to SSE’s enterprise pay gap, rather than a difference in salaries for equivalent roles.

The spokesperson said: “We were concerned by how SSE’s gender pay gap reporting was presented inaccurately at the Committee, which didn’t reflect the difference in the gender pay gap reporting and equal pay legislation.

“SSE is – by any reasonable judgement – a leader in the FTSE100 on gender reporting.  We have published more data, more often and been more open about our strategy, the action plan and the results of those actions than any other FTSE100 company.  We have won awards and been singled out by Ministers for our efforts.  We also understand better than anyone just how far we have to go to make our company more inclusive and diverse.”

Eon chief executive Michael Lewis told the company that his company’s gender pay gap is 12 per cent.

Meanwhile, Sarwjit Sambhi, managing director UK Home at Centrica, said during the session the British Gas owner’s move to scrap standard variable tariffs (SVTs) would ultimately depress profits.

He said: “Overall profitability will be lower.”

Sambhi also admitted to MPs the company could do more to shift its customers SVTs to fixed deals than it had done since the publication of the Competition and Market Authority’s energy market review in 2016.

He said: “We have not done enough. There is a lot more we can do.”

He also said Centrica’s own figures showed that its customers who use smart meters were less likely to switch suppliers than those on traditional meters.

While 17 per cent of its customers on traditional meters had switched, he told the committee the equivalent figure for those using smart meters was only 12 per cent.

“It has a positive impact: customers use smart meters to save energy and time because there are no more meter reads.”

Lewis said the move to smart meters would translate into lower bills because they will promote competition in the market place.

However, Ed Kamm, chief commercial officer at First Utility, raised a concern that the mass roll out of smart meters could deepen the divide between the unengaged and engaged customers.

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