Women in the UK who return to work after having a baby lose out on wage progression, according to a new report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
The research shows that women earn 18% less than men on average, and the gender pay gap becomes steadily wider after women first become mothers. Over the subsequent 12 years, their hourly pay rate falls 33% behind men?s.
According to the IFS, this is partly because women who return to work often do so on part-time hours and miss out on opportunities for promotion. As a result, the hourly wages of men (and of women in full-time work) pull further and further ahead.
Additionally, women who take time out of paid work altogether and then return to the labour market miss out on wage growth.
There is some encouraging news in the report, with the current 18% gap in hourly wages down from 23% in 2003 and 28% in 1993. But the research also showed that there has been little improvement for graduates and women with A-levels.
?For the mid- and high-educated, the gender wage gap is essentially the same as it was 20 years ago,? the IFS said.
The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for women?s equality and rights, said in response to the report that more quality part-time jobs were needed to address the pay gap.
Its chief executive, Sam Smethers, commented:
?What this study very clearly shows is the motherhood wage penalty, which is exacerbated by a lack of quality part-time work. We are wasting women?s skills and experience because of the way we choose to structure our labour market.
?Part-time workers can be the most productive, yet reduced hours working becomes a career cul-de-sac for women from which they can?t recover. We desperately need to see more quality part-time jobs.?
TUC general secretary Frances O?Grady agreed, saying that the gender pay gap will take decades to close without more well-paid, part-time jobs and affordable childcare.
?We need to see a step change in government policy and employer attitudes if we are to fix this problem,? O?Grady added.