Men earn 45 per cent more than women at the age of 49, ONS data shows
The gender pay gap has decreased since the 1970s but the disparity between what men and women take home today still differs dramatically after the age of 30, Office for National Statistics data has revealed.
Figures show that in 1975 16 to 18 year olds of both sexes were paid similar sums but this changed after the age of 18 with men earning more than women at every age group. At that time the biggest percentage pay gap was for 38 year olds, with male employees receiving on average 61 per cent more than their female counterparts.
The situation has changed in 2013, with virtual wage parity between the sexes lasting until around the age of 30.
However, after this milestone men start to out earn women until the difference reaches a peak of 45 per cent when employees hit the age of 49.
Charles Cotton, CIPD reward and pensions adviser, said: “The ONS believes that part of the explanation for the gap could be due to the so-called ‘cohort effect’. As factors such as gender discrimination legislation and changes to the UK economy, labour market, social attitudes and school achievements came into play they will have had the greatest impact on the younger age groups of women. Over time, we would expect that the gender pay gap would start to fall for older workers as well.”
He also said that the ONS recognised that these figures do not take account of the different jobs that women and men do or the occupation in which they are employed. For example women are far more likely to work part-time if they leave the workforce to start a family and then return looking for more flexible employment, and women are more likely to work in administration and caring roles, which are less well paid then skilled trade jobs historically done by men.
However, Cotton still advised employers to examine whether they way that they reward and recognise employee achievements, values and behaviours reflects the needs of the business rather than bias and prejudice deliberate or not. In addition, they should review their recruitment and development policies and practices as well as promotion criteria, he said.
Peter Holmes, employment law specialist with HR consultancy firm ELAS, commented: “The scale of the discrepancy between wages across the board is surprising and the fact sadly remains that there are fewer women in senior roles.
“Some may put part of the pay discrepancy down to maternity leave and women who have had a career gap spanning several years may struggle to command the same salary when they return. It will be interesting to see whether the wage gap closes over the coming years with the introduction of new paternity legislation in 2015, which will allow men to take the same maternity leave as women.”
He warned employers to remember that secrecy clauses “have been outlawed”, employees are well within their rights to compare pay between themselves.
“If discrimination in wages is occurring, as these [ONS] figures seem to indicate, employers may be leaving themselves at risk of equal pay claims and sex discrimination cases,” he added.
Holmes highlighted the fact that from 1 October 2014, employment tribunals will be obliged, under certain circumstances, to order employers in breach of equal pay law to conduct equal pay audits. He said this should act as a warning to employers to ensure reward equality as they may be called upon to justify their pay decisions.
Further analysis of the ONS figures by ELAS shows that the average UK hourly wage for men is £12.64, and for women £10.38 – a gap of 21 per cent. This means that on average women across the UK will earn 80p for every pound that men receive, the consultancy said.