The disparity in pay between men and women has been monitored by the Office for National Statistics since 1997 during which period the gap between men and women's average pay has reduced to an all time low of 9.4% for full time employees in 2015. Today's report published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) will not therefore come as a surprise to many.
One of the headline points from the report is that following childbirth the average pay gap increases (from around 10% to 15% before childbirth) to 33% after around 12 years and is cited as proof that becoming a mother has a directly negative impact on earnings.
Here are some other statistics however that may surprise you. Part-time men are actually paid less than part-time women (-6.5%). Full time women are paid more than men between the ages of 22-29. In fact the pay gap between men and women remains relatively small until you start to look at employees from aged 40 upwards.
As Mark Twain once said, "Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable" The one fact however which cannot be disputed is that once women start to have children there is clear evidence of a reduction in their earnings. Furthermore this cannot be simply attributed to women working fewer hours given that the gender pay gap is calculated by reference to an individual's average gross hourly pay, not the number of hours they work.
Mark Littlewood, the Director General of the free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs responded to the report of the IFS by commenting that it is "common sense" that if employees look to reduce their hours they would see their earnings drop. Whilst it can impact on future career opportunities it is usually a decision based on familial reasons or to obtain a better work life balance, either way it is a choice made by the individual, men and women alike. The counter argument to this however is that it is still more women than men who take off time to care for children and working part time should not stand in the way of career progression.
Today's report coincides with a recent announcement by the Government Equalities Office that the planned introduction of new regulations imposing an obligation on employers to publish annual pay gap figures will be delayed until April next year. This will not however affect the deadline for the publishing of the first gender pay gap reports which must be done by 30th April 2018.
The planned regulations will require employers of 250 employees or more to publish various statistics relating to employees' pay including overall mean and median gender pay gap figures, the gender bonus gap, the number of men and women in 4 pay quartiles (to show how the pay gap differs across the organisation) and the proportion of male and female employees who received a bonus in the preceding 12 months. The government has intimated that those employers who fail to comply with the regulations will be named and shamed.
Whatever your views on the subject, the likelihood is that the vast majority of employers will have some gender pay gap where women earn less than men. As a result of this, many employers are already being advised to start gathering information and prepare data with a view to ensuring that when they come to publish their reports they cause minimum embarrassment and negativity.
Even if this isn't a concern, consider this one last statistic: according to the response received by the government following the consultation to the draft regulations, 84% of women aged 16 to 30 would consider an employer's gender pay gap when applying for a job which could result in many female applicants being put off working for an organisation with what is considered to be an unacceptably high gender pay gap.
Gender pay gap: mothers returning to work earn a third less than men