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The gender pay gap measures the difference between average hourly earnings of men and women. This briefing paper provides statistics on the size of the gender pay gap in the UK, looks at some of the reasons why the gender pay gap arises and discusses the duty of large employers to report on the size of the gender pay gap in their workforce.

Gender pay gap statistics for 2020 relate to the pay period that includes 22 April 2020 after lockdown had begun, but the ONS has concluded that the coronavirus pandemic did not have a notable impact on the gender pay gap in 2020.

How big is the gender pay gap?

Median hourly pay for full-time employees was 7.4% less for women than for men at April 2020, down from 9.0% in 2019, while median hourly pay for part-time employees was 2.9% higher for women than for men (figures exclude overtime pay).

Because a larger proportion of women is employed part-time, and part-time workers tend to earn less per hour, the gender pay gap for all employees is considerably larger than the full-time and part-time gaps. Median pay for all employees was 15.5% less for women than for men at April 2020, down from 17.4% in 2019.

There has been a downward trend in the full-time pay gap since 1997 and the overall pay gap has also decreased over the period. The part-time pay gap has generally remained small and negative, with women earning more than men on average.

Why is there a gender pay gap?

The size of the gender pay gap depends on a number of factors:

  • Age: There is little difference in median hourly pay for male and female full-time employees aged in their 20s and 30s, but a large gap emerges among full-time employees aged 40 and over;
  • Occupation: The gap tends to be smaller for occupation groups where a larger proportion of employees are women;
  • Industry: The pay gap is largest in the financial & insurance industry and the professional, scientific & technical industry, and smallest in the transportation and storage industry and administrative and support services industry;
  • Public and private sector: For full-time workers, the pay gap is larger in the private sector than in the public sector. There is a negligible gender pay gap for part-time workers in the private sector, which contrasts with a large part-time pay gap in the public sector;
  • Region: The gender pay gap is highest in London and the South East and negative in Northern Ireland;
  • Pay: The highest earners have a larger pay gap than the lowest earners.

Gender pay gap reporting

From 2017/18, public and private sector employers with 250 or more employees are required annually to publish data on the gender pay gap within their organisations.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the enforcement of the gender pay gap deadlines for the year 2019/20 were suspended, so only 5,916 employers have reported data for 2019/20. Approximately 81% of these employers stated that median hourly pay was higher for men than for women in their organisation, while 12% of employers stated median hourly pay was higher for women. 7% stated that median hourly pay was the same for women as for men.

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