A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has stated that women who go back to work part-time after having a child continue to earn less than men for many years afterwards, with the gap rising to 33% of men’s hourly pay rates during the subsequent 12 years. It has further reported that the pay gap becomes steadily wider in the years after babies are born as women miss out on promotions and accrue less experience than men, which holds back their earning power.
This would seem logical, because if a woman is allowed to turn her pre-maternity role into a part-time role when she comes back to work, then her pay should be pro-rated, so that her hourly pay rate is not affected. However, if her part-time status means she misses out on subsequent pay rises or pay rises linked to promotion, this will mean that the hourly wages of men and full-time working women pull ahead.
The initial pay gap of 18% is down on 28% in 1993 and 23% in 2003, but this report will no doubt give support to the government’s decision to introduce compulsory gender pay gap reporting on larger employers from 2017. It remains to be seen whether this reporting will force positive change to further reduce the pay gap, or whether other recent policy changes, such as shared parental leave (which came into force last year), which facilitate greater sharing of child-care responsibilities, will level the playing field more effectively.