In this section EqualPayPortal  looks at official sources of information on the gender pay gap within the UK and across Europe. We also look at what information there is on the number and outcome of equal pay cases filed with the Employment Tribunal.

European data on the gender pay gap

Inequality in pay between men and women remains high on the European agenda. The European Commission produces a range of statistics on the gender pay gap across Europe.

Eurostat, the EU equivalent of the UK’s Office for National Statistics, produces a map showing the gender pay gap. The map can be found here, at chapter 13.  While the 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, but pay levels throughout the whole of Europe differ hugely, with some areas seeing women actually earning more than men on average, while other areas (such as the South East of the UK) see men earning 25 per cent more than their female counterparts.

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.

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.


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. In the absence of an annual report on the gender pay gap in the UK (as, for example, that produced by Belgium) the Annual Survey is the key official source of information on the gender pay gap in the UK.

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.

To get a full picture of women’s earnings relative to men’s it is important to read the annual statistical bulletin in its entirety, and not just the section on 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.

For these reasons 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.

Up to date information on the gender pay gap

On November 19th 2015 the ONS released provisional results for the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. These show that in the year to April 2015, average earnings for full-time employees increased by 1.8 per cent.

The gender pay gap for median earnings of full-time employees decreased to 9.4 per cent, from 9.6 per cent in 2014. This is the lowest since the survey began in 1997, although the gap has changed relatively little over the last 4 years. A similar trend is seen when full-time and part-time employees are combined, although the gap is unchanged from 2014, at 19.2 per cent.

  • Men working full-time earned more than women (£567 per week in April 2015 compared with £471), with both seeing increases in median earnings compared with 2014 (1.5 per cent and 2.1 per cent respectively).
  • The gap between men’s and women’s earnings has remained relatively consistent from 1997 to 2015 at around £100, but this corresponds to a faster rate of increase for women than for men over this period (a 78 per cent increase compared with 59 per cent respectively), meaning that the gap has been closing in percentage terms.
  • When looking at the differences for full-time employees, the gap is relatively small up to and including those aged 30 to 39 (with the exception of the 16 to 17 age group). In the 22 to 29 age group, women are paid on average slightly more than men. From 40 upwards, the gap is much wider, with men being paid substantially more on average than women. The ONS states that this is likely to be connected with the fact that women who have children often take time out of the labour market, but this overlooks the fact that only women now in their twenties will have had access both to affordable, good quality childcare and to the possibility of being able to work flexibly in a well-paid job. Until very recently women and men have entered the labour market on very different terms, and this, as much as childbearing, contributes to the gender pay for older women.
  • Taking full-time and part-time employees together, for all age groups except 16 to 17, men are paid more on average than women. Also, for all age groups from 22 to 29 upwards, the gap is wider than for full-time employees alone. This indicates that, in these age groups, more women are working part-time in jobs that tend to be lower paid.
  • The gender pay gap for full-time employees in the private sector decreased from 17.6 per cent in 2014 to 17.2 per cent in 2015, the lowest since the series began in 1997 and continuing the long-term downward trend. However, the gender pay gap in the public sector increased for the second consecutive year from 11.0 per cent to 11.4 per cent. The ONS notes that “this has been relatively stable over the longer term, fluctuating around 10 per cent since 2003.”
  • At the top decile (the top 10 per cent of earners), the ONS report that gap for full-time employees has remained largely consistent, fluctuating around 20 per cent. In fact, the gap has narrowed, but ONS do not state by how much. For lower earners too (the bottom 10 per cent of earners) the gap has narrowed, to 6.5 per cent in April 2015, although it has changed little in recent years.
  • The gender pay gap also varies by occupation and ranges ranging from 4.3 per cent for sales and customer service, to 24.6 per cent for skilled trades occupations in April 2015.

This year the ONS has also issued an Analysis of factors affecting earnings using Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings – 2015 . This contains some additional information on the gender pay gap.

For further information from the Office of National Statistics

For further information on the Annual Survey contact: James Tucker, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings

The gender pay gap over time

In March 2014 the DCMS, using ONS data sources, carried out an analysis of how the gender pay gap has changed over time. A breakdown of the gender pay gap by age, occupation and income percentile is included. The analysis does not look at ethnicity, nor at region,  but it is reasonable to suppose that the high concentrations of both men and women from ethnic minorities in particular regions and occupations and in part time working, must have an impact on the findings and on the conclusions that can be drawn from them.

Key points:

  • The gender pay gap for all staff in the UK in 2013 was 19.7 per cent, as measured by hourly earnings for all employees. This was marginally higher than in 2012, when the gender pay gap was 19.6 per cent. However, the pay gap has decreased markedly over the longer term. This paper looks at changes in the gender pay gap over this longer period by: age; occupation; & for high / low earners.
  • The gender pay gap, and how it has changed over time, varies for the different age groups. In 2013, the gender pay gap was lowest for those in the youngest age groups. It then increases up to the 40 to 49 year old age group, before falling for the older age bands. Between 1997 and 2013, the gender pay gap has, in general, narrowed for all age bands up to and including 40 to 49 year olds. For the oldest age groups the pay gap has stayed fairly static since 2005.
  • Median earnings rose faster between 1997 and 2013 for women between 30 and 39 than for any other age group. This has coincided with the pay gap for this age group decreasing by more than any other.
  • The gender pay gap within different groups of occupations varies considerably, and has changed in different ways for occupations between 1997 and 2013: The pay gap has consistently been high for those in the skilled trades (plumbers, electricians etc.), & for managers and directors. The pay gap has been consistently lower than the national average for professional & associate professional occupations. With increased attendance at universities, there have been more people (and proportionately more women) entering these occupational groups.
  • The gender pay gap across high and low earners also varies. In 2013 the gender pay gap was lowest for those in the 10th percentile of earnings (the value which 10% of the population earn less than). The pay gap has also decreased by the most for this group between 1997 and 2013. The gender pay gap has decreased in a similar manner for those between the 40th and 80th percentiles of earnings. However, the gender pay gap for those earning the most has not decreased by as much as the other groups between 1997 and 2013. This shows that the gap between the highest earning males and females is not narrowing at the same rate as the rest of the economy.

You can read the full report here.

A more detailed analysis

In June 2013 the Equality and Human Rights Commission published a Briefing which looks at the data from the 2012 Annual Survey of Hours and earnings in more depth. As well as overall trends the briefing looks at occupational groups; industries and sectors; UK nations and English regions; age bands, and gaps across the earnings distribution.

Employment Tribunal Statistics

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal service publishes the Tribunals and Gender Recognition Certificate Statistics Quarterly. The main tables accompanying the report include the number of cases filed with the Employment Tribunal. The April to June 2015 report shows that in 2014/14 , 9,621 equal pay claims were filed, down from 62,700 in 2007/8.

The Acas Annual Report, no longer reports on equal pay as a separate jurisdiction.

Last updated 18th November 2015