Mothers suffer pay penalty by working part-time

Mothers are missing out on pay rises due to a 'pay penalty' for working part-time after childbirth, a new report has shown

pay gap

Educated women in part-time work are missing out on the benefits of working full-time, where experience is rewarded with progression and pay growth. Research published by The Institute for Fiscal Studies in February 2018 shows that on average, those in full-time employment will see their hourly rate rise each year, whilst those in part-time have their wage progression 'shut down'.

The gap is especially pronounced between women and men, and so goes some way to explaining the gender pay gap. Researchers found that by the time a first child is aged 20, mothers will earn about 30% less per hour on average than similarly educated fathers. The report also states that:

  • The gap in wages between low- and mid-educated men and women has narrowed to 18% in the past two decades.
  • However the gap has not fallen among graduates, with females expected to earn 22% less than men.
  • This gap widens gradually but significantly from the late 20s and early 30s, with men’s wages continuing to grow rapidly, while women's wages plateau.

Robert Joyce, associate director at the IFS and co-author of the report, said: "Traditionally it has been lower-educated women whose wages were especially low relative to similarly educated men.
“It is now the highest-educated women whose wages are the furthest behind their male counterparts – and this is particularly related to the fact that they lose out so badly from working part-time.”

When using the example of a graduate who has worked full-time for seven years before having a child, the report noted she would see her hourly wage increase by 6%, were she to continue in full time work for another year. Alternatively, she would see none of that progression if she switched to part-time work instead.

The IFS recommends improving wage progression in part-time work as key to improving the wage gap. Although research still needs to be done to fully understand why part-time work shuts down wage progression so much, with the report citing “less training provision, missing out on informal interactions and networking opportunities, and genuine constraints placed upon the build-up of skill by working fewer hours," as possible factors.

IFS associate director and report author, Monica Costa Dias said: “There are many likely reasons for persistent gaps in the wages of men and women which research is still investigating, but the fact that working part-time has a long-term depressing effect is an important contributing factor.

“It is remarkable that periods spent in part-time work lead to virtually no wage progression at all. It should be a priority for governments and others to understand the reasons for this. Addressing it would have the potential to narrow the gender wage gap significantly.”

What Mumsnetters have to say on pay penalities:

“People often use the excuse that women are at lower levels of an organisation. Well why do you think they are? Could it be because they are not promoted?”

“Lots of colleagues do it. You end up doing 3/4 of the work for 1/2 the salary, and get passed over in the promotion stakes… And it's nearly always women who do this.”

“In Britain half of all women in senior positions are child-free, but there's never a mention of how many men in senior positions are child-free. This implies that the choice for a woman to be a top executive is to be child-free. This is certainly not the case for men. So where is the equality in that?”

“I work 0.4 of a week and get paid 0.4 of a FTE salary. I am able to take up promotions if I so wish.”

Struggling to find a Family Friendly employer? Take a look at the companies signed up to Mumsnet's scheme.

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