The gender pay gap

Equal pay for equal work is one of the European Union’s founding principles, embedded in the Treaties since 1957, and the European Commission produces regular reports on European policy initiatives and EU funded research projects on the gender pay gap.  These are published on the European Commission’s Justice website.

You can find the chapter on the gender pay gap here.

Of particular interest is factsheet on the gender pay gap in the UK.

Gender pay gap statistics

Eurostat, the European equivalent of the UK’s Office for National Statistics, produces statistics on the gender pay gap across all Member States, along with a whole range of other relevant data. Unlike our own Office for National Statistics, Eurostat has pulled together all the information on the gender pay gap onto one page and the site is both informative and easy to navigate.

Eurostat  produces a map showing the gender pay gap. The map can be found here, at Chapter 13; Gender Statistics, Gender Pay Gap. While EU statistics are not directly comparable with those in the UK, the EU figures show that the average gap within the EU is 16 per cent. However, pay levels throughout the whole of Europe differ hugely, with some areas seeing women earning more on average than men, while other areas (such as the South East of the UK) see men earning 25 per cent more on average than women.

Eurostat also produces a table showing the unadjusted gender pay gaps across Europe for the past ten years. The table can be found here. The table shows that in the UK the unadjusted gap fell from 27. 3 per cent in 2003 to 19.7 per cent in 2013. The metadata underpinning the figures can be found here.

You can find the Eurostat portal for the gender pay gap here.

2015 consultation shows strong support for tackling the gender pay gap

A public consultation on Equality between women and men in the EU” received almost 5000 contributions from across Europe. 1408 online contributions were made by organisations and 3488 by individuals. 16.4 per cent of the 4896 responses came from the UK, the second highest after Germany.

The high response to this public consultation, combined with responses to other EU initiatives give a depth and width to the feedback from stakeholders which will be an important source of information for the EU in identifying priorities for future policy action in the field of gender equality.

Respondents were clear that the top priority for the EU should be to address the fact that women are being paid less than men for the same work or work of equal value. 30.1 per cent of the organisations chose this answer.

Respondents also saw an improvement in the quality and pay of part-time work, so as to make it a valid career option for men as well as women, as being necessary to bring about a more equal sharing of caring activities between women and men. Closely associated with this was a call for an improvement to the working and pay conditions in the care sector.

To read the report on the consultation, click here.

EU funded projects on the gender pay gap

Several projects are directly aimed at tackling the gender pay gap. These are: zeroGPG, WITA GPG, equal pacE, Gender Pay Gap: New solutions for an old problem, Bridging the Gender Pay Gap Transnational Cooperation, Agir contre les écarts de salaires Femmes/Hommes, Promote Equal Pay to Diminish Pension Gap, Poverty and Social Exclusion, Close the Deal, fill the gap. Most are aimed either at developing software to help organisations analyse their gender pay gaps, or at helping the social partners to tackle the gap.

You can find summaries of all the projects here.

For more on Close the Deal, Fill the Gap, which has UK participation,  got to  Research.

Equal pay

The principle that women and men are entitled to equal pay for doing equal work is grounded in European Union law. British domestic law must conform to European Union law, which imposes specific obligations in respect of equal pay which can have direct effect. So, in considering equal pay claims under the Equality Act 2010, British courts and tribunals must take into account the relevant provisions of the Treaty, relevant Directives and decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union (formerly the European Court of Justice). If domestic law does not give full effect to these rulings then a woman may be able to rely on European Union law in British Courts.

  • The Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union

Article 157 of the Treaty of the Functioning of European Union, formerly Article 141 of the EC Treaty, sets out the principle of equal pay for equal work.

  • Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation

Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000, establishes a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, including pay.

  • The Code of Practice

There is also a Code of Practice on the Implementation of Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value for Women and Men.  Although this dates back to 1996, the practical steps it recommends are still valid. 

Equinet handbook: How to build a case on equal pay

Equinet is the European Network of national Equality Bodies. This Handbook, prepared by members of Equinet’s Working Group on Gender Equality, aims to be a practical and useful tool for anyone who works on equal pay cases, guiding you to existing resources, data, and arguments that have been successful in the past.

The handbook is structured to help case-workers in equality bodies, lawyers or other legal professionals to build their case, but the resources contained therein should support and inform anyone looking to gain insight into the challenges and opportunities in litigating for equal pay. In addition, the handbook contains useful and hands-on information for anyone interested in and working on equal pay.

The handbook includes:

  • Checklists on what to ask claimants and respondents and how to gather data
  • Suggestions of external partners to work with when gathering information for your case
  • Information on how to shift the burden of proof
  • Tools to show the importance of transparent pay schemes for your case: gender neutral job evaluation schemes and wage calculators
  • Examples of cases handled by equality bodies in Europe
  • Links to relevant resources, tools, statistics and literature

You can download a copy of the handbook here.

Equal Pay Day

Like many other countries in the developed world, Europe holds an Equal Pay Day. Like the British Equal Pay Day, the date varies from one year to another.

You can find information on Equal Pay Days across Europe here.

European funded research relevant to the UK

Who’s Breadwinning in Europe, a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (the IPPR) shows that the nature of work, earning and family relationships has changed. The model of a male breadwinner and a female carer as the ‘default’ for European families is long gone. While the dual-earner model often translates to men working full-time and women working part-time, a significant proportion of women are either the sole breadwinner or the main breadwinner for their family.

Across Europe nearly one in three (31.4 per cent) mothers in working families with dependent children are breadwinners. IPPR define ‘maternal breadwinners’ as mothers of dependent children who bring in 50 per cent or more of total household earnings. This includes mothers in couple households who earn as much as or more than their partner, and single mothers who are in work.

There are 2 million maternal breadwinners in Britain, making up one in three (33 per cent) of mothers in working families. IPPR finds that maternal breadwinners are more common among:

  • Lower-income households.
  • Older mothers and mothers of older children:
  • More educated mothers:
  • Service-sector and public-sector workers: in the UK, maternal breadwinners are over represented in health, social work and education: these sectors account for 43 per cent of maternal breadwinners but only 23 per cent of all earners.

IPPR argue that the increased significance of women’s economic contributions to their family’s wellbeing underlines the importance of tackling the gender pay gap to ensure women and men are paid equally for equal work.

Last updated 9th November 2016