Working mums in pay penalty

Motherhood is having a direct impact on women’s salaries with the gender pay divide rising sharply when they hit their 30s. A report from Trade Union Congress (TUC) shows that full-time female workers in their 30s on average earn 11% less than their male counterparts, while for women in the 40s this gender pay divide increases to over 22%. The concentration of women in low-paid jobs is one factor cited by the TUC for the gender pay gap. However, it says that the divide more than trebles when women hit their 30s suggesting that employers are “penalising” mothers. Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: “'We all expect our wages to increase as our careers progress. But women's wages start to stagnate as early as their 30s and many are paying an unacceptable penalty simply for having children. “Despite girls outperforming boys at school and at university, too many employers are still failing to make use of women's skills. This waste of talent isn't just hurting their take home pay, it's harming the UK economy too.” Part-time women workers in the 30s and 40s are also suffering financially, earning on average 31% and 41% respectively less than full-time male workers of the same age. More than three-quarters of Britain’s 7.5 million part-time workers are female.

Pay discrimination

The TUC says pay discrimination and a lack of career choices for women, especially mothers, are the key reasons for the widening gender pay divide. It suggests that women who think they are the victims of pay discrimination contact their trade union. The Equal Pay Act 1970 means that men and women should be paid the same regardless of their gender. This means that you have a right not to be paid less than someone of the opposite sex doing the same or similar work, or different work that is of equal value. “Pay” in this context covers everything from basic salary to sick and holiday pay, occupation pension and performance related pay. If you think you are experiencing pay discrimination on the basis of your gender you can make a claim for equal pay to the employment tribunal.

Table showing the full-time and part-time gender pay divide:

Age Full-time pay for men Full-time pay for women Part-time pay for women Full-time gender pay gap Part-time gender pay gap
16-17 £4.75 £5.21 £5.14 -9.7% -8.2%
18-21 £7.28 £6.96 £6.96 4.4% 11.54%
22-29 £11.08 £10.72 £8.49 3.3% 23.4%
30-39 £15.64 £13.89 £10.70 11.2% 31.6%
40-49 £17.35 £13.39 £10.21 22.8% 41.2%
50-59 £16.22 £12.88 £9.89 20.6% 39%
60 + £13.36 £11.45 £8.90 14.3% 33.4%
Source: TUC 11/03/08

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