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Gender pay gap at its narrowest since 1997

The pay gap between men and women has shrunk to its narrowest since official records began in 1997.

After poor figures last year showed the gap had widened for the first time since 2008, the direction of travel has reversed, and the gap has closed further than before.

It stood at 9.4 per cent in April compared with 10 per cent the previous year, the equivalent to around £100 per week.

'Another sign of progress'

Back in 1997, the gap was 17.4 per cent, prompting Chancellor George Osborne to say that the figures were 'another sign of progress in the fight for equal pay'.

The recent narrowing is because men's wages are falling in real terms faster than women's, analysts said.

For those under the age of 40, the pay gap has reduced to 'almost zero', the Government said. The hourly earnings of women working for more than 30 hours per week were higher than for men in the 22 to 29, and 30 to 39 age bracket.

The preferred measure for the gap taken by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the median hourly earnings of full-time workers.

But the gap was also at its narrowest for all employees, including part-time workers who are predominantly female, at 19.1 per cent, down from 19.7 per cent last year.

Equal pay

Employers must give men and women equal terms and conditions in their employment contracts if they are employed to do the same or broadly similar work, work of equal value, or work rated as equivalent under a job evaluation survey.

Some 40 per cent of women work part-time, and they have the right to be treated no less favourably than comparable full-timers, including the same rates of pay. An employee has to show 'objective justification' that meets a genuine business need if treating part-timers less favourably.

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