Women earn on average £223,000 less than men over the course of a lifetime, according to new research published ahead of next week’s deadline for businesses across the country to divulge their gender pay gaps.
The analysis, compiled by the Young Women’s Trust, a charity that supports young women on low or no pay, is based on data from the Office for National Statistics and shows that a gender income gap exists as soon as women start working.
The trust found that women aged between 22 to 29 earn on average £1,550 less each year than their male colleagues in the same age bracket. The lifetime difference, the charity points out, is enough to buy a house outright in many parts of the UK.
“Discrimination and unequal caring arrangements still prevent women progressing at work and reaching higher salary bands,” said Carole Easton, chief executive of the trust.
“We need to help more women into male-dominated sectors and into senior positions. Helping parents share childcare more equally and supporting women back into the workforce after taking time out through flexible working opportunities would make a big difference, too,” she said.
She said that where companies find they have a gender pay gap, there should be a requirement to put in place a plan to close it. “Without action, today’s young women face a lifetime of unequal pay.”
Public sector organisations employing at least 250 people have until Friday to publish a breakdown of mean and median pay for women and men across pay quartiles. Private businesses and charities have until 4 April.
Earlier this week, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission said that it would write to any and all organisations that do not comply by 9 April. From then, organisations will be given 28 days to comply before an investigation takes place and an unlawful act notice is issued. Failure to comply with the regulations will ultimately lead to an unlimited fine decided by the courts, the EHRC said.
Current figures show that the nationwide gender pay gap is at 18.4 per cent, but many of the UK’s biggest publicly listed companies have admitted to much wider gaps – especially in sectors like finance.
Jemima Olchawski, head of policy and insight at the Fawcett Society, a women’s rights charity, said that the gender pay gap also represents a “productivity gap”. “It’s bad for women who lose out on potential earnings and career opportunities but also bad for businesses who are failing to properly recruit, promote and reward women,” she said.