According to data published today (26 October) by the Office for National Statistics in its Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, the overall gender pay gap (taking into account both full-time and part-time employees) has fallen from 19.3% in 2015 to 18.1% in 2016. This is apparently the largest year-on-year drop since 2010.

The gender pay gap is calculated as the difference between average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men and women as a proportion of average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men’s earnings. So a gender pay gap of 18.1% means that average pay for female employees is 18.1% lower than for males.

Other interesting statistics in the survey are that if you just take full-time employees, the gender pay gap was 9.4% in April 2016, down from 9.6% in April 2015. This is the lowest since the survey began in 1997, although the gender pay gap has changed relatively little in recent years. The gap for part-time employees, on the other hand, was actually negative, at minus 6.0% in April 2016.

These latest statistics follow on from the World Economic Forum’s rather depressing prediction yesterday that it will take 170 years (i.e. until 2186) for women around the world to achieve economic parity with men.

Do remember that the gender pay gap figure is different from, and not a measure of, whether men and women are getting paid the same pay for doing the same job. This 18.1% figure is a result of a number of factors, including that more women than men work part-time (and thus earn less per hour on average), are not at senior (hence highly-paid) roles in the same numbers as men and are in lower paid sectors. The more women who work in higher-paid sectors and who take up those senior roles, etc. the smaller the pay gap will become.

The UK’s national gender pay gap statistics will be of particular interest to employers with 250 or more staff who should be gearing themselves up to publish their own gender pay gap information by April 2018. Keep an eye out for our forthcoming series of blog posts on how employers should be preparing for mandatory gender pay gap reporting.