Figures released by the Office for National Statistics last week revealed that the gender pay gap has increased over the year from April 2012.

The gap - which is the difference between men's and women's earnings as a percentage of men's earnings - based on median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) for full-time employees, increased to 10.0 per cent from 9.5 per cent in 2012.

For men, full-time earnings were £556 per week, up 1.8 per cent, compared with £459 for women, up 2.2 per cent.

The ONS also works out the difference using mean hourly earnings as they tend to be higher than the median which is skewed by a small number of employees at the top end of the distribution with extremely high earnings.

Using this measurement, the gender pay difference for full-time employees widened to 15.7 per cent from14.8 per cent in 2012. Although there was a reduction in the pay gap for part-time employees, the gender pay difference based on the mean for all employees increased to 19.1 per cent in 2013 from 18.6 per cent in 2012.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“This year has seen a shock rise in the gender pay gap after years of slow, steady progress. Ministers should be ashamed of presiding over this latest dismal record on pay.

“The light touch, voluntary approach to tackling gender pay inequality is clearly failing. We need tougher action to force companies look at their pay gaps”.

Neil Todd from Thompsons Solicitors commented: "The figures are very disappointing and should be a significant source of embarrassment to the government. They appear to illustrate the fact that cuts in public sector spending are having a disproportionate impact on women.

“In addition, they show that too few employers are either willing to promote women into senior roles or give enough thought to how roles can be structured to enable women who are primary child carers to be able to carry them out. Employers need to be more creative and more flexible in their approach to ensuring they promote and retain valuable female employees".

The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) is based on a one per cent sample of employee jobs, drawn from HM Revenue and Customs Pay As You Earn records.

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