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.

  • Methodology

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, but 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.

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.

  • 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.

Up to date information on the gender pay gap

On the 26th October 2016 the ONS released provisional results for the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.

Key points
  • In April 2016 the gender pay gap (for median earnings) for full-time employees was 9.4 per cent, down from 9.6 per cent in 2015.
  • When part-time employees are included, the gap decreased from 19.3 per cent in 2015 to 18.1 per cent in 2016, the largest year-on-year drop since 2010. This is also the lowest gender pay gap since the survey began in 1997, when the gap for all employees was 27.5 per cent.
  • For part-time employees separately, women are paid more on average, resulting in a “negative” gender pay gap. Although the part-time gender pay gap has decreased from minus 6.8 per cent in April 2015 to minus 6.0 per cent in April 2016, there is evidence that the part-time gender pay gap has widened in the long-term.
  • The composition of the male and female employee workforces are quite different, with more women working part-time than men (41 per cent and 12 per cent respectively). 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.
  • Investigating the difference in 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 high earners (top decile), the gap for full-time employees has remained largely consistent, fluctuating around approximately 20 per cent (18.8 per cent in 2016).
  • For low earners (bottom decile) the gap has narrowed over the long term, to 4.9 per cent in April 2016, the largest year-on-year decrease in the full-time gender pay gap for the bottom decile since records began in 1997. This is likely to be connected to the introduction of the National Living Wage, as women tend to work in lower paid occupations. For example, the lowest paid occupation group – caring, leisure and other service occupations – has a higher proportion of women working full-time. (78 per cent).
  • The gender pay gap for full-time employees in the private sector decreased from 17.4 per cent in 2015 to 16.6 per cent in 2016, the lowest since the series began in 1997, continuing the long-term downward trend. The gender pay gap in the public sector has also decreased from 11.8 per cent to 11.3 per cent, continuing its longer-term trend of fluctuating around 10 to 12 per cent since 2003.
  • 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). From 40 to 49 and upwards, the gap is much wider, with men being paid substantially more on average than women.
  • Taking full-time and part-time employees together, again men are paid more on average than women for all age groups (except those aged 16 to 17, where the gender pay gap is 0 per cent). Also, for 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 also varies by occupation and ranges ranging from 3.9 per cent for sales ( a decrease) and customer service, to 25.1 per cent (an increase) for skilled trades occupations in April 2015.

You can read the full survey here.

At the same time, the Office for National Statistics published a table showing the gender pay gap for median hourly earnings (excluding overtime) by country, April 1997 to 2016. The table shows that the gap is wider in England than in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland.

You can read the additional table here.

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

Factors affecting earnings

In 2015 the ONS 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.

High-level gender pay gap as much as 54.9 per cent

The ONS statistics have been supplemented by the TUC, whose analysis of official statistics shows that the highest paid men are paid 54.9 per cent more than their female colleagues. The TUC looked at the top 10 per cent of earners and showed the gap in annual salaries between men and women working full-time rose steadily through each percentile.

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.

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

Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice showed that there were a total of 4,200 single claims received in the period April to June 2016, down 3 per cent on April to June 2015. However, equal pay claims bucked the trend, being up  at 3,367, a rise of 72 per cent. However, some of this rise may be attributable to group actions for equal pay against two major supermarkets, Asda and Sainsbury’s.

The duration of a tribunal case, that is, how long it takes from being lodged to its eventual conclusion, increased for multiple claims, many of which will be equal pay claims, but went down slightly for single claims. For single claims, the mean age of a case ranged from 34 weeks for sex discrimination claims to 91 weeks for equal pay claims. The mean duration of a multiple equal pay claim was 320 weeks (well over 5 years), but with some cases already having lasted 440 weeks.  The length of time taken to dispose of equal pay claims may be contributing to the 15 per cent increase in outstanding cases in Employment tribunals.

Last updated 9th November 2016