(Bloomberg) -- HSBC Holdings Plc’s female staff in the U.K. are paid bonuses almost 70% lower on average than their male co-workers, but that still represents a significant improvement on a year earlier.

The latest gender pay gap report published by the British lender this week showed the shortfall between the discretionary payouts to female staff narrowing from around 85% in 2018. Overall, HSBC reported a pay gap between male and female staff of about 55% against 61% a year ago.The bank declined to comment beyond the report, which covers the year to April 2019.

Pay disparity in financial services has been under scrutiny as the stark differences between what women and men earn becomes public. British lawmakers held a discussion this week with representatives of the industry, including HSBC’s group head of human of resources, Elaine Arden, to quiz them on their progress in improving conditions for women working in the sector.

Year-on-year comparisons are complicated by the fact that HSBC has changed its reporting from a year earlier. The set-up of its U.K. ring-fenced banking arm has led to a change in the way HSBC calculates its figures.

Companies with more than 250 U.K. employees are required to report their gender pay gap figures, which are calculated as the difference between men’s and women’s average hourly wages. Firms will also be ordered to publish the difference between the highest-paid and average employees in their annual reports from 2020.

HSBC U.K., the ring-fenced business, appears in the latest report for the first time and employs the greater part of its British workforce with a headcount of 21,004, while HSBC Bank Plc, its previous main reporting entity for the purposes of gender pay, has seen its staff drop to 2,009 this year.

This week, HSBC appointed three women to its global banking and markets division executive committee in London. The committee had no female members previously.

The ring-fenced bank, which contains HSBC’s U.K. retail banking operations whose employees generally earn far less than their colleagues in the lender’s investment banking arm, said its average pay gap was 32%, roughly in line with the likes of its main rivals such as Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and Lloyds Banking Group Plc.

HSBC is the first bank to report its figures for 2019, so an in-year comparison is not currently possible until others publish their own gender pay reports, something they do not have to do until April 2020.

Chief Executive Officer John Flint has made creating what he has called the “healthiest human system” one of the priorities of his tenure and in a foreword to the report said the bank had “more work to do.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Harry Wilson in London at hwilson57@bloomberg.net;David Hellier in London at dhellier@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ambereen Choudhury at achoudhury@bloomberg.net, Marion Dakers

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