Mon 28 Nov 2022

ONS statistics show improvement in gender pay gap

The Office for National Statistics ("ONS") figures show that the gender pay gap has fallen by a quarter among full time employees over the past decade.


Unlike the statutory requirement to report gender pay gaps, the ONS gender pay gap statistics compare hourly earnings across all jobs in the UK.  The figures are also more in depth as they look at differences in pay by age, region, full-time and part-time work, and by occupation.  This is all compiled from the ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.

This year's report shows that, among full-time employees, the gender pay gap in April 2022 was 8.3%.  Although this is up from April 2021 (when it was 7.7%) it is down from the most recent pre-Covid statistics in April 2019 when it was 9%, and this fall reflects a longer-term downward trend.  The uncertainty caused by data collection disruption, lower response rates and the impact of furlough means the longer term trend is likely to be more accurate than a year on year comparison over the last couple of years. 

While this overall improvement is positive, it is not all good news.  There remains a significant difference in the gender pay gap between employees aged over 40 years and those aged under 40.  For those under 40, the gender pay gap for full-time employees is low, having been at 3.2% or below since 2017.  However, for those aged 40 and older, the gender pay gap is over 10.9%.  Previous analysis looking at the types of occupation that men and women work in by age group indicated that the incidence of women moving into higher-paid managerial occupations after the age of 39 years was low.  While not commented upon within the report itself, reasons for this may include increased caring responsibilities for women discouraging them from taking on additional responsibilities within the workplace.

The pay gap is higher in every English region than in either Scotland or Northern Ireland.  This is very different from 1997 when these statistics were first produced, when the gender pay gap was relatively equal between all regions of the UK.  In Northern Ireland, in particular, the gender pay gap is negative - so it favours women.  This is explained as being due to a higher proportion of women working in the public sector where pay rates for some jobs are higher than in the private sector.  London is the only region where the gender pay gap remains very similar to its 1997 level, albeit it has decreased slightly.

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