What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap reflects inequalities and discrimination in the labour market that mostly affect women. Women earn significantly less than men over their entire careers for complex, often interrelated reasons. These include:

  • differences in caring responsibilities
  • more women in low skilled and low paid work
  • outright discrimination

The current median aggregate gap for part time and full time workers is 18.4%
The current overall mean gap for full time workers is 14.1%.
At current rates of progress, it will take 100 years to close the gender pay gap.

Progress in closing the gap has stalled – it hasn’t changed in the last three years. There is no guarantee that the gap will close over time – it needs significant action from Government, businesses, and society. 

By 4th April 2018 all organisations with over 250 employees are legally required to have published their gender pay gap data. Read our briefing on the gender pay gap reporting deadline here.

What causes the gap?

Animation by Golin


There are four big causes of the gender pay gap:

Discrimination: It’s illegal, but some women are still paid less than men for the same work. Discrimination, particularly around pregnancy and maternity leave, remains common, with 54,000 women forced to leave their job every year after becoming a mother. 

Unequal caring responsibilities: Women play a greater role in caring for children, as well as for sick or elderly relatives. As a result more women work part time, and these jobs are typically lower paid with fewer progression opportunities.

A divided labour market: Women are still more likely to be in low paid and low skilled jobs, affecting labour market segregation. 80% of those working in the low paid care and leisure sector are women, while only 10% of those in the better paid skilled trades are women.

Men in the most senior roles: Men make up the majority of those in the highest paid and most senior roles – for example, there are just seven female Chief Executives in the FTSE 100.

What progress have we made?

Our campaigning led to new gender pay gap reporting legislation, which requires organisations with over 250 employees to publish data on their gender pay gaps, including bonuses, by April 2018. We want employers to see this as an opportunity to address the productivity gap, as tackling workplace inequality could help 840,000 women into work and would allow them to reach their full potential. Read our Gender Pay Gap reporting deadline briefing here.

We have also hosted a series of Gender Pay Gap Reporting events with Neil Stewart Associates to help businesses drive positive change. Here's Chief Executive Sam Smethers at our Gender Pay Gap Reporting Conference in October 2016 on why gender equality in the workplace makes business sense.

Find out more about our Gender Pay Gap Reporting Event series here.

What can I do if my company has a gender pay gap?

The deadline for publishing gender pay gap data is an important moment for employees and employers across the country to have a conversation about equality in the workplace.

As we have seen with the BBC, often that conversation will turn to equal pay, or pay discrimination. Everyone has a right under the Equality Act 2010, no matter what your contract might say, to talk about their pay if it is for the purposes of helping women, or people with other protected characteristics such as race or disability, to establish if they have been discriminated against. So this is the right time to have that discussion.

You can also talk to your manager, and ask them to see your company’s action plan to close the gap. You can join a union, or if you are already in one ask your union representative what they are doing to advance pay equality. And to build solidarity, you can join your firm’s women’s network (or gender equality network) – or start one, if there isn’t one.

What is Fawcett campaigning for?

We are campaigning for employers to:

  • Advertise all jobs in their organisation as flexible, part-time or a job share unless there is a strong business case not to.
  • Support women to progress to higher paid jobs, and tackle unconscious bias and use targets to measure progress.
  • Become a living wage employer – over 60% of those earning less that the living wage are women.

We want the government to:

  • Implement meaningful penalties for employers who do not comply with gender pay gap reporting rules.
  • Create targets for apprenticeships and aim for 50:50 recruitment. Apprenticeships are publically funded but at the moment the ones in the highest paid sectors remain dominated by men. There is a £2,000 gender pay gap at apprenticeship level.
  • Introduce a dedicated period of leave for fathers paid closer to replacement earnings rate. Current shared parental leave legislation is welcome, but too few fathers will be able to take it. 
  • Build on the extension of free childcare by investing in our childcare infrastructure so that we have affordable, flexible and high quality care for children.

Help close the gap for good

Do you believe that women should be valued equally for their work and skills? Here's what you can do to speed up progress.

Stay informed

The Fawcett Society regularly publishes new research on the gender pay gap, including our gender pay gap reporting deadline briefing, our briefing for Equal Pay Day 2017 and our report Gender Pay Gap by Ethnicity in Britain. Stay informed by reading gender pay gap-related news here and signing up for our newsletter, which includes information about how to support Fawcett, below.

Campaign with us

Every year, we mark Equal Pay Day to urge employers and politicians to take serious steps towards closing the gender pay gap for good. Find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved here.

Join Fawcett

The best way to ensure our work continues is by joining Fawcett as a member. Stand up for women's rights. Join us today.