The gender pay gap gets worse with age because of the jobs women are employed in, not because of discrimination, according to the CBI.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that pay differences peaked for women working full-time aged between 40 and 49. The pay gap at that age stands at 20.3%, compared with just 1% for women aged 22 to 39.
The study found that earnings for men and women were similar when they started full-time work, but the gender pay gap started appearing after about 10 years.
Susan Anderson, CBI director of HR policy, said: “This survey shows that the main reason men and women earn different amounts is down to the sector they work in, not widespread employer discrimination, as disingenuously claimed by unions.
“Women are most likely to work in lower-paid sectors than men. They also still take the lion’s share of bringing up families, so their careers plateau, while men continue to progress.”
Anderson said she expected the pay gap between men and women to close at higher ages as employers now offered more options to accommodate work-life balance demands.
A spokesman for the union Unison said: “How demoralising for young women starting out in the job market to know they face a downward spiral of unequal pay.”