In Brief

UK’s full-time gender pay gap widens

Equality charity says progress on closing the pay gap has been ‘dismally slow’

The gender pay gap for full-time workers has increased in the UK, bringing to an end a period of progress on the issue.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, the pay gap for full-time employees rose to 8.9% in 2019 from 8.6% in 2018.

The gender pay gap is the percentage difference between average hourly earnings for men and women.

The ONS called for perspective on the latest figures, saying the increase was “not statistically significant” but concern over the inequality is on the rise because there has been little meaningful change in the gender pay gap in recent years.

Since 2012, the chasm has reduced by just 0.6% for full-time employees. As The Guardian reports, the “most stubborn gap is between men and women when they reach their 50s” where the difference in pay is more than 15%.

Equality charity the Fawcett Society told the BBC that progress on closing the gender pay gap is “dismally slow” and at the current rate of decline it will take 60 years to wipe it out.

Sam Smethers, the charity’s chief executive, said: “As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act women have waited long enough.

“The pay gap represents a productivity gap and a waste of women's skills and potential. Too many women are trapped in low paid part-time work or locked out of non-traditional sectors while others experience pay or pregnancy discrimination.”

The TUC’s general secretary Frances O'Grady said: “Government must pick up the pace. It's clear that publishing gender pay gaps isn't enough on its own. Companies must also be legally required to explain how they'll close them.”

There is disagreement over strategy. While calling for “more action to ensure women of all ages receive fair and equal pay at every level,” the British Chambers of Commerce said that “naming and shaming employers” through pay gap reporting was “a blunt and ineffective instrument”.

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