New pay gap figures confirm the need to step up action, says EOC


New pay gap figures confirm the need to step up action, says EOC

Annual earnings statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) were published this month, showing the pay gap between men and women working full time remains at 17.2%. 

The Equal Opportunities Commission calculates that this means the average woman working full-time will lose out on around £330,000 over the course of her working life.

The EOC is calling for a change in the law to “require employers to take proactive steps to close the pay gap and conduct a simple equality check to review whether they have a gap and to take action where needed”. 


Calculating the pay gap

The Office for National Statistics has adopted the median figures as its preferred measure for the pay gap between men and women so that it is “less influenced by extreme values”. The median figures put the 2006 pay gap at 12.6%, compared with 13% in 2005. More details can be found at

However, the EOC argues these “extreme values” are vital in explaining the pay gap. “Since top earning jobs are heavily skewed towards men while the lowest paid jobs are skewed towards women, these figures need to be accounted for in the gender pay gap and the only way to do so is to use the mean,” the EOC says.

Review of anti-discrimination legislation

The government is currently reviewing all anti-discrimination legislation -- which was introduced in a piece-meal fashion over the last 30 years -- with an eye towards modernisation and harmonisation.

The review is being conducted by the Department for Communities and Local Government and a Green Paper is expected early next year.

A final word

"The pay gap, sadly, isn't closing fast enough. We welcome the action plan following the Women and Work Commission. But we also need new legal thinking if we're to tackle this stubborn inequality and speed up the pace of change.

In the generation since the Sex Discrimination Acts and the Equal Pay acts came into force, women have made great strides in the workplace. But the remaining pay gap suggests that our three decades-old laws, which rely heavily on women bringing costly individual legal cases to challenge inequality, have reached the limits of their usefulness. We need a new generation of laws placing a more active responsibility on employers to deliver equality for tomorrow's generation -- before they too miss out on much needed income." -- Jenny Watson, Chair of the EOC, said:

Want to know more?

More about the EOC’s interpretation of the recent figures can be found on its web site in the news and media section at

The government’s Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) provides information about the levels, distribution and make-up of earnings and hours paid for employees in all industries and occupations. The ASHE is a new survey developed to replace the New Earnings Survey (NES) from 2004. To find out more visit the National Statistics web site at