Motherhood causes significant pay disparity between men and women


23 August, 2016

Across today's headlines is the news that recent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) research shows the difference in pay between men and women in the same job is on average, a staggering 18%, and the earnings gap widens significantly after women have children.

The issue revealed by the research is broader than that simply of women not being paid the same as men for the same work, but identifies and explores the 'glass ceiling effect' - that is, why are there more men present in those jobs higher up the career ladder?

Motherhood is the primary cause, states those findings revealed today. Having children 'penalises' women who take time out of work in consequence, work flexibly or reduce their hours, sacrificing their prospects of promotion against their male counterparts, who remain 'traditionally' full time and present in work. It is understood that the research shows the pay gap widens steadily for 12 years after a child born and is connected to women choosing to work fewer hours thereafter, subsequently missing out on future pay rises as a result. The research is able to report that in the 20 years following the arrival of their first child, on average mothers worked four years fewer than men.

It is noted and encouraging that the average pay gap has come down from 28% in 1993 and 23% in 2003; however this is not the case for higher-educated men and women, between whom the gap has not closed at all in the past 20 years.

Realising the issue as one which has come about as a result of the fewer hours worked by women who have children, the research does not, arguably, point to the occurrence of overt gender discrimination as the underlying concern in the workplace, but rather, perhaps, the way the labour market and hierarchical roles are structured, with organisations preferring to promote full-time staff at the expense of part-timers. The highlighted difficulty is therefore that it is working mothers who make up the majority of this workforce and that more carefully thought-out steps are perhaps required to alleviate the pay disparity on this basis.

The topic has certainly sparked a lot of interest and debate. It will be interesting to see how the currently awaited introduction of obligatory Gender Pay Gap Reporting for employers enlightens the issue further.

For advice or assistance in relation to this issue please contact a member of the Forbes Employment & Education Team on 01772 220022. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.


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