Last updated 1st January 2014
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 unadjusted gender pay gap (GPG) is an important indicator used within the European Employment Strategy to monitor imbalances in wages between men and women. Eurostat, the European Commission equivalent of the UK’s Office for National Statistics, publishes a summary of Gender Pay Gap Statistics which includes a long list of links to other sites with relevance to the gender pay gap.
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 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 (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 Office for National Statistics headline estimates of the gender pay gap are for hourly earnings excluding overtime. Including overtime can distort the picture as men work relatively more overtime than women. The Office for National Statistics 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
Information on the gender pay gap is presented as part of the Annual Survey, and the Office for National Statistics publishes a Statistical Bulletin which includes the relevant figures and downloadable charts. The latest Bulletin was published on the 12th December 2013.
- In April 2013 median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees were £517, up 2.2 per cent from £506 in 2012;
- For men, full-time earnings were £556, up 1.8 per cent, compared with £459 for women, up 2.2 per cent;
- The gender pay gap (i.e. the difference between men’s and women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings) based on median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) for full-time employees increased to 10.0 per cent from 9.5 per cent in 2012;
- The gender pay gap based on median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) for all employees (full-time and part-time)increased from 20.2 per cent to 19.7 per cent;
- The gender pay gap based on median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) for part-time employees widened slightly to -5.7 per cent compared to – 5.5 per cent in 2012;
- The gender pay gap based on mean hourly earnings for full-time employees increased to 15.7 per cent from 14.8 per cent in 2012;
- For part-time employees the gap based on mean hourly earnings decreased from 6.9 per cent to 5.2 per cent in 2012;
For further information from the Office of National Statistics
For further information on the Annual Survey contact: Mark Williams, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Quarterly Reports which show the number of cases filed with the Employment Tribunal. In 2012-2013, 23,638 equal pay claims (out of a total of 191,541 claims across all jurisdictions) were received.
The figures should be interpreted with caution, as unlike other jurisdictions, equal pay cases can take over a decade to reach a final determination. It is also difficult to distinguish between individual and multiple claims, and many, if not the majority of, equal pay claims are multiple claims. Attempts have been made to improve the system of recording the progress of all jurisdictions, but so far these have not proved to be practicable.