Mothers Earn Less As They Choose to Work Fewer Hours, Report Confirms

Around 8,000 employers will have to publish their average pay and bonus gap between genders, the results of which will be posted in a league table to be first published in 2018
AFP/Ben Stansall

Mothers who return to work earn less per hour than their male counterparts as they work fewer hours resulting in fewer promotional opportunities, the Institute for Fiscal studies has found.

Despite personal choice being a clear factor, calls have been made for the government to intervene and bridge the pay gap.

According to the research, the wage gap increases steadily following childbirth, to reach a 33 percent disparity with male colleagues’ wages after twelve years.

“The gender wage gap widens gradually but significantly from the late 20s and early 30s,” the report notes.

“Men’s wages tend to continue growing rapidly at this point in the life cycle (particularly for the high-educated), while women’s wages plateau.

“The arrival of children accounts for this gradual widening of the gender wage gap with age.”

Mark Littlewood, Director General at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), said that the report’s findings proved that any wage gap between men and women is down to personal choice, not employer discrimination.

“This study tells us little that we did not already know. If anything, the IFS has provided us with more evidence that the wage gap has nothing to do with gender discrimination. As the study itself notes, women who take time off work and return doing fewer hours are not getting paid less per hour,” he said.

The IFS’s report places the average hourly wage for women at about 18 percent less overall than for men, and claims that even before the arrival of children there is a 10 percent disparity between the wages of men and women.

Other research, however, has shown that women in their twenties typically earn more than their male counterparts, thanks principally to women outstripping men academically.

Analysis of official figures by the office of National Statistics last year revealed that, between the ages of 22 and 29, a woman will typically earn £1,111 more than her male colleague. Men only start to edge ahead once women take time out for a maternity break.

The latest ONS’s Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), further revealed that although men typically earn 9.4 percent more per hour in full time work, down from 9.6 percent in 2014, women in part time work command 6.5 percent more per hour, up from 5.5 percent in 2014. That survey excludes overtime.

“To compare the salary of a part-time worker to their potential salary had they remained full-time skews the numbers,” Littlewood said.

“It is common sense that if you reduce the number of hours worked your potential future earnings would also drop. And it’s hard to cry ’employer discrimination’ when, according to the Office for National Statistics, women in part time work last year earned on average 6.5% more than their male counterparts.

“When people make the decision to go part time, either for familial reasons or to gain a better work-life balance, this can impact further career opportunities but it is a choice made by the individual – men and women alike.”

But UK Independence Party MEP Margot Parker, who sits on the European Parliament’s FEMM Committee for women’s’ rights and gender equality has called on the government to step in and redress the balance nonetheless.

“We must look at getting this pay gap narrowed further, particularly when it comes to women returning to work after childbirth,” she said.

“It is grossly unfair on women that the gap widens after the arrival of children, whether that is due to them missing promotions, or gathering less work experiences.

“Remember, there is huge, un-tapped workforce of women who simply cannot go back to work because, for example, they can only to work weekends when their partner is home. The costs of childcare make it very difficult for women to get back into the workplace.

“I know of a well-qualified nurse in this position who would love to work weekdays but the system makes it too difficult.

“Women who return to work after they have had their children – no matter how long they are out of the workforce for – have so much to offer society. We have a duty to make sure they are treated fairly.”

A government spokesman said: “The gender pay gap is the lowest on record but we know we need to make more progress and faster.”

“That’s why we are pushing ahead with plans to force businesses to publish their gender pay and gender bonus gap – shining a light on the barriers preventing women from reaching the top.”

Follow Donna Rachel Edmunds on Twitter: or e-mail to:


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.