By Emma Batha
LONDON, Feb 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women in Britain who switch to part-time work after they give birth suffer a long-term penalty in striving for equal pay, with educated mums the biggest losers, economists said on Monday.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) - a leading think tank - said Britain's gender wage gap stood at about 20 percent - after falling from nearly 30 percent in the early 1990s.
However the gap has not narrowed at all for the most educated women - partly because mothers spend more time than fathers doing part-time work - according to a study by the IFS.
Workers tend to see their pay rise as they gain experience, yet part-time workers miss out on these gains, researchers said.
"It is remarkable that periods spent in part-time work lead to virtually no wage progression at all," said IFS associate director Monica Costa Dias, who co-authored the report
"It should be a priority for governments and others to understand the reasons for this," she said in a statement.
By the time a family's first child has grown up in Britain, mothers earn on average about 30 percent less per hour than fathers educated to a similar level, according to the study.
The gap is partly explained by the fact many mothers are likely to have been in part-time rather than full-time work while their child is growing up, or stopped working entirely.
The IFS said the lack of earnings growth in part-time work hit graduate women hardest, because they would have seen the biggest salary increases if they had kept working full-time.
A graduate who had worked for seven years before having a child would, on average, see her hourly wage rise by 6 percent if she stayed in full-time work for another year, but would see no increase if she moved to part-time work, the study found.
Britain introduced a law in 2017 requiring companies with at least 250 workers - which covers almost half of its workforce - to report pay discrepancies between male and female employees.
(Editing by Kieran Guilbert; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)
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