The gender pay gap has fallen to its lowest level yet, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported.
In the year to April 2018, the gap for full-time workers was 8.6 per cent – down from 9.1 per cent in the previous year.
The gender pay figure is the first to be released since the UK’s largest employers were obliged to submit data on the earnings of men and women.
The extent of the pay gap varies according to age, with older female workers much more likely to be underpaid in comparison.
However, pressure groups said the change was happening far too gradually. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Working women won’t be celebrating this negligible decrease in the gender pay gap. At this rate, another generation of women will spend their whole working lives waiting to be paid the same as men.
“The government needs to crank up the pressure on employers. Companies shouldn’t just be made to publish their gender pay gaps, they should be legally required to explain how they’ll close them.
“And bosses who flout the law should be fined.”
In the 22-29 age group, women earn just 1.3 per cent less than men. However, in the 50-59 year-old group, women earn as much as 15.5 per cent less than men.
Senior ONS earnings statistician Roger Smith, who compiled the wage data for 2017/18, said:
“Average weekly pay for full-time employees is now increasing at its fastest since the financial crisis, in cash terms, with hourly pay rising fastest among lower-paid occupations.
“However, after taking account of inflation, earnings are still only where they were in 2011, and have not yet returned to pre-downturn levels.
“The gender pay gap fell to 8.6% on our headline measure, its lowest ever. But it isn’t the same for everyone – it’s close to zero for employees aged under 40, but widens for those who are older.”
Median gross weekly earnings reached £569, up by 3.5 per cent from £550 in 2017. Adjusted for inflation, earnings were at a similar level to 2011 and 3.7% lower than in 2008, prior to the financial crisis.
Tara O’Sullivan, CMO at Skillsoft:
“Ultimately, the fact that a gender pay gap still exists in 2018 is disappointing. Progress is being made – but there’s still work to be done. The gender pay gap needs to be addressed, and I believe it’s going to have to be addressed in a legal manner. Take Iceland for instance, which has passed a law making it the employer’s responsibility to prove that employees are being paid equally. That’s what’s needed, because culturally – particularly in the UK and Ireland – we are notoriously bad at talking about our salaries. Enshrining this in law would force us to deal with the consequences of equal pay. I expect in the future we will see some high-profile cases of people suing for back pay as a result of being underpaid.
On the other side, women need to improve negotiation of their salaries. Often, when men are offered a job there will be a back and forth on pay, holiday and other benefits. Women tend to simply accept offers, because of absurd notions about being too pushy and outspoken. Employers will value a demonstration of your negotiation skills; in many job roles – from sales to marketing and engineering –negotiation is very important. It’s not about being more like a man, but showing your worth as a woman.”