London: Women get paid less than men at every stage in their careers but the gender pay gap is widest during their 50s, according to new analysis.
The pay gap begins as soon as women start working and is at its greatest when a woman turns 50, with female employees cumulatively £85,040 (Dh381,843) worse off than men over the next decade, according to TUC analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics.
The TUC analysis shows that the gender pay gap widens steadily from 9.1 per cent for 18-year-olds to 25.9 per cent for women in their 50s and then falls slightly to 22.8 per cent for those in their 60s.
When women turn 50 they earn £8,504 less a year than men, as caring responsibilities for children and older relatives take their toll on female earnings.
Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: “Women suffer a huge pay penalty over the course of their careers, which peaks in their 50s. At current rates of progress it will take decades for women to achieve pay parity with men.
“Having children has starkly different effects on men’s and women’s pay, with women earning less after having kids, and men earning more. Far more needs to be done to help mums get back into decent, well-paid jobs after they have kids — and to encourage dads to take on their share of caring responsibilities.”
An 18-year-old woman working full-time earns on average £1,395 a year less than her male peers. In a woman’s 20s she earns £1,944 less a year than men of the same age, and in her 30s it is £3,034 on average.
When women enter their 40s, the gap more than doubles to £7,234 a year — or £72,340 over this decade.
This is largely due to parenthood. TUC research published earlier this year found that at the age of 42 — the midpoint of a typical working life — the pay gap between mums and dads in full-time work was 42 per cent. For childless men and women, it was 12 per cent.
The mothers who were least likely to experience a motherhood pay penalty were those who had children later in life when they had reached more senior roles, and returned to full-time work soon after having children.
Shared parental leave
A government spokesperson said: “The gender pay gap is the lowest on record ... but we are committed to eliminating it completely. That’s why we’re taking action by requiring employers to publish their gender pay and bonus gaps for the first time ever from April next year.
“We are modernising the workplace through shared parental leave, doubling the amount of free childcare available to working parents and we are working with employers to make sure that women, no matter their age, have the support they need to stay in the workforce.”
Some progress has been made on closing the full-time gender pay gap, but it has slowed in the last few years. The 2015 survey of hours and earnings from the Office for National Statistics showed the pay gap was falling by just 0.2 percentage points a year. If this continues, it will take 47 years to achieve pay parity between men and women.
The TUC recommended a number of measures, including better paid paternity leave. The union called on the government to go further and force employers to publish an action plan for shrinking the gender pay gap, with sanctions for those who refuse to comply.