25/10/2018 10:36 BST | Updated 25/10/2018 13:01 BST

Gender Pay Gap Has Fallen in UK – But Only For Full-Time Employees

And it widens for women over 40.

The gender pay gap for full-time workers in the UK has fallen to its lowest ever level at 8.6 per cent, the Office for National Statistics has reported.

The report found the gulf between the median full-time hourly pay (excluding overtime) for women and the same pay for men has decreased 0.5 per cent since 2017, when it was 9.1 per cent. 

It also said the full-time gender pay gap is now almost non-existent for employees until the age of 39 – good news for women in the workplace.

However after that point – when women have often left full-time work to take maternity leave and then returned to work – the pay gap starts to widen again.

And taking all employees into consideration, the pay gap is still at 17.9 per cent (a drop from 18.4 per cent) driven by more women working in part-time jobs, which tend to be lower paid.

An average hourly rate for part-time work is £9.36 compared with £14.31, excluding overtime, for full-time jobs.

[READ MORE: Women Share How It Feels To Find They’re Paid Less Than Male Colleagues]

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Senior ONS earnings statistician Roger Smith, said: “The gender pay gap fell to 8.6 per cent on our headline measure, its lowest ever. But it isn’t the same for everyone – it’s close to zero for employees aged under 40, but widens for those who are older.”

The report also found that gross weekly earnings for full-time employees were up 3.5 per cent from 2017 (£569 from £550) – the highest growth in earnings since 2008. However, once adjusted for inflation, earnings were at a similar level to 2011 and were still lower than in 2008, prior to the financial crash.

Smith said: “Average weekly pay for full-time employees is now increasing at its fastest since the financial crisis, in cash terms, with hourly pay rising fastest among lower-paid occupations.

“However, after taking account of inflation, earnings are still only where they were in 2011, and have not yet returned to pre-downturn levels.”

And the picture isn’t the same across the country. Earnings growth was lowest in those parts of the country where pay rates were low, with the slowest growth being in the North East (0.5 per cent) followed by Wales (2.1 per cent).  

Looking at local authorities, full-time earnings were highest for those working in the City of London (£1,054 a week) and lowest for Rother in East Sussex (£427 a week).