Gender Pay Gap Statistics UK

Gender Pay Gap Statistics – In the UK and the Self-employed Sector

2020 marks 50 years since the Equal Pay Act, an act from the UK Parliament that prohibited employers from paying women less than men for the same job. Although gender pay inequality is illegal, the gender pay gap is still rife in the UK.

While gender pay gap reporting helps highlight the issues, it doesn’t give a clear picture of where women can challenge unequal pay–for that to happen, they would need to know what their colleagues earn.

At GoSimpleTax, we take a particular interest in how the gender pay gap affects the self-employed and freelance sector, as running your own business and setting your rates can bring new considerations to the gender pay gap.

To better understand how the self-employed and freelance sectors are affected by the gender pay gap, we’ve compiled some key facts, figures, and statistics about the state of the online business industry, including:

  • A snapshot of the gender pay gap in the UK
    • The gender pay gap by sector
    • The gender pay gap by age
    • The gender pay gap by company size
    • The gender pay gap for furloughed employees
    • How the gender pay gap affects workplace choices
  • The gender pay gap in the self-employed and freelance industries
    • Women in self-employment
    • How the gender pay gap affects well being for the self-employed
    • Pay disparity in self-employed day rates

We collected data from statistical and industry reports, alongside our own survey research, to uncover some major insights into how the gender pay gap persists, even in the self-employed and freelance industries.

Here’s what we found:

The Gender Pay Gap in the UK:

Of the companies surveyed by ONS in 2020, 8090 pay men more, while only 1,470 companies pay women more.

In April 2020, the gender pay gap among full-time employees was 7.4%, down from 9% in April 2019.

Among all employees, the gender pay gap in 2020 was 15.5%, down from 17.4% in 2019.

The gender pay gap is higher for all employees than for either full-time employees and part-time employees. This is because women fill more part-time jobs, which in comparison have lower hourly median pay.

Gender Pay Gap by UK Region:

The gender pay gap is lower in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales than in all regions in England.

London has seen the smallest change in the gender pay gap, falling just one percent in the last 23 years, from 15.1% in 1997 to 14.1% in 2020.

Gender Pay Gap by Sector:

The construction and finance and insurance sectors have the largest pay gap, with 23% and 22% respectively.

Although no sector pays women more than men on average, accommodation and food services female employees earn just 1% less than their male counterparts, while those working in health and social care earn 1.3% less.

Most companies in those sectors use flat pay rates, which may explain why the pay gap is so much smaller.

Gender Pay Gap by Age:

The Gender Pay Gap has fallen to almost zero in 2020 for full-time employees under 40 years old.

For all age groups 40 to 49 years and older, the gender pay gap for full-time employees is over 10%.

  • Ages 40-49: 11.2%
  • Ages 50-59: 12.8%
  • Over 60: 13%

Gender Pay Gap in Full-time Occupations:

The largest fall in the gender pay gap in 2020 was among managers, directors and senior officials.

The gender pay gap has fallen in all of the above occupation types except two, administrative and secretarial occupations and professional occupations, which both saw a small increase in the previous year’s pay gap.

Gender pay gap by company size:

Between 2016 and 2020, the gender pay gap fell for companies of all sizes except those with 1-9 employees, which saw a slight increase, from 11.1% to 11.8%.

Furloughed Employees Gender Pay Gap:

Although furlough and the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the labour market and hours worked, it appears to have had little effect on the gender pay gap in April 2020.

11.2% of all employees were furloughed in April 2020 and had their pay reduced. In comparison, 12.5% of men and 10% of women were furloughed.

How Workplace Choices Affect the Gender Pay Gap

Women tend to prefer the flexibility offered by a short commute and are more likely than men to leave their current job due to a longer commute, and settle for less pay for a smaller commute.


Men are more likely to tolerate a long journey and are less likely to leave their current job when given increased earnings.

The Freelance and Self-employed Pay Gap:

Self-employed: There are currently 5 million self-employed people in the UK, whether through running their own limited company, working as a sole trader, or working through a partnership.

Solo self-employed: There are currently 4.6 million solo self-employed people in the UK. These are people within the self-employed sector who work entirely on their own and without any employees.

Freelancers: There are currently 2.1 million freelancers in the UK. A subsection of solo self-employed, freelancers work in highly skilled professional, managerial and technical occupations.

Of the 4.6 million solo self-employed people in the UK, 1.7 million are women.

  • 63% of the UK’s solo self-employed people are men, compared to just 36% women.
  • The number of female freelancers has grown 69% since 2008, compared to just a 43% increase in the number of male freelancers.

Men earn 43% more on average than women in self-employment

  • Self-employed women (41%) are more likely than men (34%) to say they would benefit from training on setting and raising their day rates.
  • 35% of women find a challenge in not knowing how much to charge, compared to just 23% of men.

When asked about the main reasons for entering the self-employment workforce, women were more likely to choose reasons related to their wellbeing and personal circumstances:

  • 63% said greater control of hours
  • 56% said the choice of where they work
  • 55% said better work-life balance

Men were more likely to identify with career-related reasons, such as control of work, a greater variety of work, or the opportunity to earn more.

In the UK, there are 611,000 solo self-employed mothers, and around half (302,000) are working as freelancers.

This means that 1 in 8 of all solo self-employed people are working mothers.

How the Gender Pay Gap Affects Well Being for the Self Employed:

49% of self-employed women say they worry most or all of the time about their financial circumstance, compared to 37% of self-employed men.

  • 65% of self-employed women say they will never have the things they want in life, compared to 50% of men.
  • A quarter (25%) of female freelancers said they had suffered from feelings of loneliness as a result of working remotely, compared to just 16% of men. This may be because women are more likely to work from home and less likely to work in coworking spaces, as 42% of self-employed men have used coworking spaces compared to just 31% of women.

Self-employed Day Rate Pay Disparity:

In 2019, Self-employed women, on average, said they charged £65 less for their day rates than men (£182 for men and £117 for women)

The difference between the amount charged by men and women in 2017 was half this figure, with women charging £32 less than men (£219 for men and £187 for women).

While in 2017 men charged 16% more than women per day, this figure rose to 43% in 2019, suggesting a persistent gender pay disparity in the self-employed sector.

This could be down to not only companies and clients undervaluing women’s skills and offering lower rates to men with similar qualifications, but also due to the difficulty in setting day rates, as mentioned above.


Sources upon request.

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