Gender pay gap significantly wider among older workers, analysis finds

Report claims women over 50 earn £8,000 less than their male counterparts, and face ‘double discrimination’ of age and larger wage disparities

Older women face a greater gender pay gap than their younger counterparts, a study of official data has found, with women over the age of 50 earning £8,000 less a year on average than men of the same age.

An analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) by Rest Less found a 23 per cent pay gap between full-time working men and women in their 50s, averaging £8,427 a year.

The relative size of this earning gap increased to 25 per cent when looking at over-60s – although the absolute size of the gap was slightly smaller, at £7,764.

This compares to a gender pay gap of just 3 per cent between men and women aged 18-21, 9 per cent for those aged 22-29 and 12 per cent for those in their 30s.

Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, said women in their 50s and and 60s faced “double discrimination”, as they are subjected to both age bias and the widest gender pay gap of all ages. “While the state pension age has now been equalised at 66 for both sexes, decades of a gender pay gap and the resulting wide gulf in private pension savings mean that the future retirement incomes of men and women remain far from equal,” he said.

The ONS figures showed that both men’s and women’s median earnings peaked in their 40s, with women working full time earning on average £31,402 and men £38,829 – a 19 per cent pay gap.

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However, the analysis by Rest Less showed that women experienced a steeper drop in earnings after this age than men. The median salary of women in their 50s was 9 per cent lower than women in their 40s, dropping further in their 60s to 24 per cent less than women in their 40s.

In comparison, the median salary of men was only 5 per cent lower in their 50s than their 40s, and 19 per cent lower in their 60s.

Charles Cotton, senior reward and performance adviser at the CIPD, said organisations needed to pay special attention to age disparities. "While life may begin at 40, so too does this gender pay gap,” he said.

“People professionals should be helping their employers examine their talent pipelines to see what’s stopping more women from progressing into senior roles. They should then be developing an action plan, which might, for instance, involve increasing opportunities for flexible working and learning opportunities."

Lewis added that the drop in median earnings experienced by both men and women after their 40s had “profound implications” for people's retirement savings plans: “We can no longer rely on bigger salaries in the years before we retire to fund our pensions, and instead need to consider the most efficient ways to save for retirement from an early age.”

The Rest Less study was based on the ONS’s Gender pay gap in the UK: 2020 report, which measures average earnings across the economy – and does not use the gender pay gap data disclosed by individual companies. Despite the disparities, the ONS found the overall gender pay gap fell to an all-time low of 7.4 per cent in April 2020.