What is the difference between the gender pay gap and equal pay?

Advice and Guidance

The disparity of pay

Whilst both equal pay and the gender gap deal with the disparity of pay women receive in the workplace, they are two different issues:

  1. Equal pay means that men and women in the same employment performing equal work must receive equal pay, as set out in the Equality Act 2010.
  2. The gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across an organisation or the labour market. It is expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings.

In the Britain, there is an overall gender pay gap of 18.1%. 

Causes of the gender pay gap

The causes of the gender pay gap are complex and can be overlapping, but here are some of the factors:

  • Girls often do well at school, but tend to end up concentrated in employment sectors that offer narrower scope for financial reward. On the other hand, many of the highest paying sectors are disproportionately made up of male employees.
  • The difference in years of experience of full-time work - or the negative effect on wages of having previously worked part-time or of having taken time out of the labour market to look after family.
  • Unconscious stereotyping, with assumptions about women not wanting to accept promotion, or not being in a position to do so, particularly where they have caring responsibilities. Women make up 47% of the workforce, but only 35% of managers, directors and senior officials.

Gender pay gap transparency

In 2015 and 2016, the government carried out three consultations on proposals to increase transparency around the differences in pay between men and women.

Read the Equality and Human Rights Commission response (Word document) to the Closing the Gender Gap consultation.

Read the Equality and Human Rights Commission response to the Mandatory Gender Gap Reporting consultation.

From April 2017, new regulations will require employers with 250 employees or more to publish their gender pay gap and gender bonus gap every year. The new legislation will lead to greater transparency and drive employer action to reduce the gender pay gap.

Acas has published full guidance on mandatory gender pay reporting.

Further Information

If you are involved in an employment dispute or are seeking information on employment rights and rules, you can contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas):


Freephone: 0300 123 1100 (8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-1pm Saturday)

Text Relay service: 18001 0300 123 1100.

Last updated: 23 Mar 2017