On this page you will find information on the gender pay gap in Scotland. Some aspects of both law and policy differ in Scotland as compared to England and Wales, and organisations operating in Scotland will need to be aware of the differences.

Scottish Parliament examines gender pay gap

Scottish ministers are being urged to develop an overarching strategy to tackle the gender pay gap. In the report of its wide ranging inquiry into the gender pay gap in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Jobs and Fair Work Committee have made a long list of recommendations which, if implemented, would contribute to the development of an overarching strategy to tackle the gender pay gap.  The Committee wants the strategy to include an action plan and measurable targets.

The Committee’s recommendations include:

  • Developing a suite of indicators to measure the underlying causes of the gender pay gap, using a comprehensive data set;
  • Introducing a more thorough analysis of the economic benefits of reducing the gender pay gap;
  • Carrying out a gendered analysis of education in Scotland;
  • Monitoring the number and success rate of flexible working requests made in Scotland, in both the public and private sector;
  • Increasing wages in care beyond the living wage to more accurately reflect the value of the work undertaken;
  • Encouraging all businesses to create an action plan to tackle their own gender pay gap; the Committee also recommends that the Scottish Government put in place guidance to support employers in creating such a plan.

The report also includes a number of recommendations aimed at getting the Scottish Government’s business partners both to get more girls into STEM subjects and occupations and to engage with tackling the gender pay gap.

The Committee acknowledges the willingness of the Scottish Government to address the issue, and feels there is an opportunity for Scotland to become a world leader in reducing the gender pay gap. The report and the Committee’s recommendations are intended to set the groundwork for this.

You can read the report here.


The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICE) has produced a briefing on the gender pay gap in Scotland. The briefing looks at data on pay by gender from this year’s Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) (ONS 2016a) produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Key points from the SPICE briefing are:

  • When comparing median or typical pay for all employees men make more money than women. The pay gap for all employees in Scotland is 15.6 per cent compared to 18.1 per cent in the UK.
  • The gender pay gap in Scotland for full time employees is 6.2 per cent, lower than the UK overall at 9.4 per cent.
  • Since 1997 the gender pay gap in Scotland for full-time employees has fallen from 18.4 per cent to 6.2 per cent.
  • Women are paid more than men for part-time work when comparing the median or typical pay.
  • When looking at median pay, women across most age groups are paid less than men. The pay gap increases for women over the age of 40. Between the ages of 30 and 39 women are paid more than men.
  • When looking at occupations, the largest pay gaps are found in skilled trades and management.

The briefing also suggests reasons for the differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

  • The top 10 per cent of earners in Scotland earn below the UK average for top earners. As the highest earners tend to be men this will contribute to the overall pay gap being lower. For example, London and the South East have the highest income for the top 10 per cent of earners and have the second and third highest pay gaps respectively.
  • Scotland has the second highest proportion of people who work in the public sector in the UK – as the pay gap in the private sector is higher than in the public sector the higher proportion of people working in the public sector will contribute to having a smaller pay gap.

You can read the full briefing here.

Equal pay

Scotland has its own judiciary, resulting in some procedural differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK, such as a five year back pay period for equal pay, rather than the six year period which applies in England and Wales.

For cases heard in Scotland, the Judiciary of Scotland site summarises key Scottish decisions.

The Scottish Government has announced its intention to do away with Employment Tribunal fees at some future date.

Equal pay and public bodies in Scotland

In Scotland the specific duties were created by The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012.  Scottish public bodies are required to gather and use employee information; to publish gender pay gap information; and to publish statements on equal pay. The statements must provide information about the public body’s policies on equal pay and on occupational segregation amongst its employees in respect of men and women; people who are disabled and people who are not; and people who fall into an ethnic minority group and those who do not.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced a suite of Technical Guidance to explain the general and specific duties and provide practical approaches to complying with the Public Sector Equality Duty in England, Scotland and Wales. The Commission states that the guidance provides an authoritative, comprehensive and technical guide to the detail of the law. You can find the Technical Guidance on the Public Sector Equality Duty in Scotland here. 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance on the public sector duty in Scotland adds that a public body must publish gender pay gap information every two years, and information on equal pay and occupational segregation every four years. The Commission also recommends that in determining its equal pay policy a public body could consider causes of any pay inequality amongst its employees, and may also want to consult with its employees and trade unions.

The Scottish Government

The Scottish Government states that equality and fairness are at the heart of the Scottish Government’s ambition for a socially just and inclusive Scotland, and equality is embedded in the Government Economic Strategy. Scotland’s Economic Strategy states:

‘Maximising economic opportunities for women to participate fully in the economy, and recognising the wider social role they provide, is key to improving economic performance and tackling inequality.’

The strategy commits to addressing women’s inequality in employment outcomes, including a focus on promoting the fair work agenda, and encouraging employers to mitigate the gendered barriers which prevent sustained economic growth such as occupational segregation.

While efforts are directed primarily at the public sector, the Scottish Government is working in partnership with a range of organisations to support the Close the Gap campaign to raise awareness about the pay gap between women and men in Scotland and encourage activity to close the pay gap. Close the Gap is funded by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government and its agencies collect, analyse and publish equality evidence and this is brought together in the equalities evidence area of the Government’s website. The site provides basic information on the equalities framework and redirects visitors to the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland for more detailed advice. The site features pages on income and poverty which relate explicitly to each of the equality strands.Scotland has also set itself the objective of working with the statistical authorities to improve the ethnic database.


Last updated 28th June 2017