On this page you will find official sources of information on the gender pay gap within the UK.  You will also find information on the number and outcome of equal pay cases filed with the Employment Tribunal. For information on European statistics, go to Europe.

United Kingdom data on the gender pay gap

Some words of warning

Always check whether the data refers to the United Kingdom, or to Britain. Some official data sources also provide information specifically on Scotland and Wales, but this is often inadequate. Also check the time frame within which the data is collected, as this may vary from one source to another, meaning that any comparisons have to be treated with caution.

The most recent analysis of the gender pay gap

In January 2018 the Office for National Statistics published an analysis which uses regression techniques to provide more insight in to the factors which affect the gender pay gap.

Using the headline measure of gender pay gap, the Office for National Statistics found the gender pay gap for full-time workers to be entirely in favour of men for all occupations. However, occupational crowding has an effect since those with the smallest gender pay gap also have almost equal employment shares between men and women. When looking at age groups, the gap for full-time workers remains small at younger ages. However, from 40 onwards the gender pay gap widens, reaching its peak between ages 50 to 59 for full-time workers.

Modelling the factors that influence pay, the results showed that while both men’s and women’s pay grow for most of their lives, overall, women’s pay grows less than men’s and also stops growing earlier than men’s pay. This applies to both the private and public sectors, but the returns to pay are slightly lower in the public sector.

The analysis also found that 36.1 per cent of the gender pay gap could be explained by differences in characteristics included in the model, but that occupation has the largest effect since it explains 23.0 per cent of the differences between men’s and women’s log hourly pay.

Whilst 9.1 per cent of the difference can be explained by the difference in working patterns, men are more likely to work full-time, and full-time employees on average earn more. In other words, if women had the same returns to these characteristics as men and with all other factors held constant, women would still earn less on average than men because fewer women work in the highest-paying occupations and in full-time jobs.

However, as the Office for National Statistics goes on to point out, 63.9 per cent of the gap cannot be explained, and suggests that the analysis would benefit from information on family structures, education and career breaks; without these the unexplained element is over-stated. Factors such as the number of children, the age of children, whether parents have any caring responsibilities, the number of years spent in school and the highest level of qualification achieved are likely to improve the estimation of men’s and women’s pay structures and consequently decrease the unexplained element of the pay gap. As a result, the unexplained element should not be interpreted as a measure of discriminatory behaviour, though it is possible that this plays a part.

You can find the analysis here

In March 2018 the Office for National Statistics published a brief analysis of the gender pay gap by size of business. You can find the tables here.

The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings

The Annual Survey issued by the Office of National Statistics is the key official source of information on the gender pay gap in the UK, but to get a full picture of women’s earnings relative to men’s it is important to read the annual survey in its entirety, and not just the section on the gender pay gap. This is particularly so in 2017, when the way in which the figures are presented differs from the previous year. It is also, as some figures have been omitted from the summary report (e.g. the slight widening of the gender pay gap for workers in the lowest earnings decile) worth looking at the datasets behind the published headlines.

You should also note that the figures published in October of each year (which tend to attract the most publicity) are provisional, with the actual figures following some months later.


At the whole economy level the gender pay gap is calculated from data drawn from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings  (the Annual Survey), which is carried out by the Office for National Statistics (the ONS).  The Annual Survey is based on a 1 per cent sample of employee jobs, drawn from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Pay As You Earn records. The Annual Survey collects information on the levels, distribution and make-up of earnings and hours paid. Results are produced by gender and by various industrial, occupational and geographic breakdowns, as well as by public and private sectors and age groups.

Various methods can be used to measure the earnings of women relative to men. The ONS headline estimates of the gender pay gap are for hourly earnings excluding overtime.  The ONS uses median, rather than mean, earnings because the median is not affected by extreme values, such as changes in the earnings of small numbers of very high earners. However, as those on very high earnings are predominantly male, and those on very low earnings predominantly female, the mean is an important measure of women’s experience of labour market disadvantage as compared to men, and one which allows international comparisons to be made.

The ONS also publishes a visual showing some of the differences in work force composition and how these relate to the gender pay gap.

Equal pay for equal work

Although median and mean hourly pay excluding overtime provide useful comparisons of men’s and women’s earnings, they do not reveal differences in rates of pay for comparable jobs, and it is rates of pay for comparable jobs which are the focus of the equal pay legislation.

While the Office for National Statistics rightly states that this is because such measures do not allow for the different employment characteristics of men and women, such as the proportion of men and women in different occupations and their length of time in jobs, the most important reason why the comparisons do not reveal differences in rates of pay for comparable jobs is that in the absence of a national framework for job evaluation (as exists, for example, in some Eastern European countries), a national survey cannot take account of job demands.

Because the ONS data does not, and cannot, take account of job demands the headline figures for the gender pay gap should not be treated as an indicator of whether women are receiving equal pay for equal work.

The 2017 Annual Survey 

On the 26th October 2017 the ONS released provisional results for the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.

Key points
  • In April 2017, the gender pay gap based on median hourly earnings for full-time employees decreased to 9.1per cent, from 9.4 per cent in 2016. This is the lowest gap since the survey began in 1997.
  • Taking all employees (full-time and part-time together), men are paid more on average than women for all age groups (except those aged 16 to 17, see below). This is because more women are working in part-time jobs (see below). Across all employees, the median hourly full-time pay in full-time jobs is higher than for part-time jobs by a factor of approximately 1.5 (£9.11 compared with £14.00).
  • The composition of the male and female employee workforces are quite different, with 42 per cent of women working part-time compared to only 12 per cent of men. Because the hourly earnings of part-time employees tend to be less, on average, than the earnings of full-time employees, women are more likely to receive lower hourly rates of pay. This helps explain why the gender pay gap for all full-time and part-time employees is greater than the gender pay gap for full-time employees only.
  • Looking at the gender pay gap between part-time and full-time employees by the number of paid hours worked shows that typically, more men are employed in jobs that involve working a higher number of hours, and for these jobs, it can be seen that the gender pay gap is in favour of men. However, for jobs where the number of paid hours worked by an employee is between 10 and 30, more women work in these jobs and the gender pay gap is in favour of women.
  • For part-time employees separately, women are paid more per hour, on average than men, resulting in a “negative” pay gap. However, as with the full-time gender pay gap, this part-time gender pay gap moved closer to zero, from negative 6.1 per cent in April 2016 to negative 5.1 per cent in April 2017; this was because earnings for part-time men increased by more than for women.
  • The net impact of both the full-time and part-time gender pay gaps moving closer to zero, together with an increase in the proportion of employees working full-time versus part-time, is a marginal increase in the gap for all employees, from 18.2 per cent in 2016 to 18.4 per cent in 2017. Similar year-on-year increases have occurred in previous years, for example, in 2013 and 2015, but the longer-term trend is downward, from 27.5 per cent in 1997.
  • The gender pay gap also varies by age. Among full-time employees, the gap is relatively small up to and including those aged 35 to 39. For those aged 16 to 17 the gap is negative 3.5 per cent. From the 40 to 44 age group and upwards, the gap is much wider, with men being paid substantially more on average than women. This widening of the gap is likely to be connected with patterns of return to work after having children, in particular any differences between men and women in timing and nature of returning to the labour market. A negative gender pay gap among part-time employees emerges in the age group 30 to 34 (just after the average women’s age for having a first birth) and increases for 35 to 39 year olds before beginning to be reversed.
  • For high earners (top decile), the gap for full-time employees has remained largely consistent, fluctuating around approximately 20 per cent (18.2 per cent in 2017). For low earners (bottom decile) the gap has narrowed over the long term, to 5.0 per cent in April 2017, an increase on the 2016 figure of 4.9 per cent.
  • The gender pay gap for full-time employees in the private sector decreased from 16.7 per cent in 2016 to 15.9 per cent in 2017, the lowest since the series began in 1997, continuing the long-term downward trend. The gender pay gap in the public sector increased from 11.1 per cent to 13.1 per cent; this is the highest gender pay gap seen in the public sector since 1999.
  • The gender pay gap has decreased for all UK countries since 1997. In 2017, England has the highest gender pay gap, of 10.0 per cent. In recent years the gender pay gap for full-time employees in Northern Ireland has been below 0 per cent, that is, women earn more, on average, than men. This is, in part, due to a higher proportion of public sector jobs here than in the rest of the UK. There are more women employed in this sector than men and these jobs tend to be higher-paid, in general, than in the private sector.

For further information on the Annual Survey contact: Roger Smith, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings

A guide to the figures

In 2017 the ONS has also issued a Guide to Interpreting the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. This contains some additional information on the gender pay gap.


A recent analysis of official statistics published by the TUC shows that the gender pay gap is at its widest when a woman hits 50, when the average woman working full-time will earn £8,421 a year less than the average full-time working man.

The research – published in advance of the gender pay reporting deadline in April 2018 – shows that women working full-time earn less than men annually at every stage of their careers from as soon as they turn 18.

You can read the TUC’s analysis here.

The TUC’s analysis show the importance of drilling down into a dataset so as to produce figures such as the comparison between men’s and women’s annual earnings, and at earnings percentiles. This information used to be published by the ONS, but is no longer publicly available.

 Employment Tribunal Statistics

While the quareterly reports on Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice no longer report on the number and type of employment cases being filed, the accompanying tables  can sometimes provide additional information.


Last updated 16th September 2018