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Press Release

On Equal Pay Day: HMRC data prompts concern of ‘gender furlough gap’

WBG calls for reinstating pay gap reporting and implementing measures to prevent disproportionate redundancies for those with caring responsibilities.

The Chancellor’s own constituency has the highest gender furlough gap, with the highest percentage of women furloughed (60.5% of eligible employees.)

Data from HMRC, analysed by the UK Women’s Budget Group, shows women are more likely than men to have been furloughed:

  • Women were the majority (52.1%) of workers put on furlough across the UK March – August 2020. Roughly 133,000 more women were furloughed than men across the UK.
  • Women were the majority of furloughed workers in every UK region except the West Midlands. More women than men were furloughed in 72% of parliamentary constituencies.
  • The gender furlough gap is higher for younger women than older women: women aged 18-24 were 53.1% of those furloughed in this age group, compared with 51.5% in the 45-64 age group.

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director of the UK Women’s Budget Group said:

“As of today, women across the UK effectively work for free because of the gender pay gap. We should celebrate that this date is getting later each year but this data on furlough is cause for significant concern. In such an unprecedented year, the suspension of gender pay gap reporting because of the pandemic and the furlough scheme means we do not have a clear picture about what is happening to women’s economic status. But now we know that women are more likely than men to have had their wages docked 20% by being on furlough.

With women already 70% of low paid workers, this will push many women into debt and poverty. Being furloughed also might make them more likely to be made redundant if the scheme ends before the economy recovers. This is a worrying early warning sign of what is happening to women’s incomes and independence. The Government should reinstate pay gap reporting at the earliest possible opportunity, and introduce accountability measures to avoid disproportionate redundancies for those with caring responsibilities, pregnancies and disabilities, who are more likely to be women.”

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said:

“This data shows that women, particularly the young, low paid and migrant women, are most at risk.  We also know that BAME women are most likely to be fearful about job security as a result of the pandemic and many mothers have been struggling to find childcare. This is why we need a gendered response from government otherwise we will be turning the clock back on gender equality in the workplace by decades.”


Women’s Budget Group contact:

Mary-Ann Stephenson 07957338582 

Contact Fawcett Society:

Fresh Communication 0117 369 0025

Nathalie Golden: 07769 66 66 27

Lisa Sutherland:  07801 97 99 87 

Notes to editors

The full-time mean average gender pay gap in 2020 is 11.5%, down from 13.1% in 2019. That means that Equal Pay Day has moved 6 days later in the year, compared to 14th November in 2019. The mean gender pay gap for all employees, not just those working full-time, is 14.6% this year, down from 16.3% last year. This year’s data comes with a significant reliability warning given the difficulties the ONS has had in data collection due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a quarter of the usual sample of employer pay data missing (44,000 out of 180,000 employers). The Fawcett Society makes these calculations each year, more information is available on their website.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) or ‘furlough scheme’ was introduced in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. It pays 80% of wages up to £2,500 a month. In October 2020, HMRC released data on who, of eligible employees, had been ‘furloughed’ by 31 August 2020, disaggregated by several protected characteristics including sex and age 1

Women of every age were more likely to be furloughed than men, except in the West Midlands. The gender furlough gap is bigger for younger women.

Per cent of women furloughed in each region of the UK:

  • South East (54.7%)
  • South West (54.5%)
  • East of England (54.4%)
  • East Midlands (52.8%)
  • Wales (52.2%)
  • Yorkshire and the Humber (51.3%)
  • North East (51.1%)
  • North West (51.1%)
  • Scotland (51.0%)
  • London (51.0%)
  • Northern Ireland (50.2%)
  • West Midlands (49.3%)

This data is available at the constituency level. Contact:

Overall, there are less women in the labour market than men and, women are more likely to work in ineligible employment including the public sector – so these differences are even more pronounced taken as a reflection of the overall population.

Other studies show that working class and Black, Asian or ethnic minority women are even more likely to have been furloughed:

  • A study from the University of Warwick shows that 54% of women working in routine or semi-routine employment had been furloughed, compared with 41% of men and 15% of women working in professional or managerial roles.
  • According to a Resolution Foundation study one-in-five young people and over one-in-five BAME workers who were furloughed during lockdown have since lost their jobs

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