Men should work fewer hours than women in order to close the gender pay gap, a British thinktank is suggesting.

A report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a leading UK thinktank, has found a pay gap in 80 per cent of clearly defined occupations, with seniority being the critical driver of wage disparity.

All companies in the UK with more than 250 employees were required to publish their gender pay gap for the first time in April and showed 8 out of 10 companies paid women less on an average hourly rate than men.

"This points to seniority as a critical driver of the pay gap: for most occupations, men are in more senior, high-pay versions of the role than women," said Catherine Colebrook, IPPR's chief economist and co-author of the report, The State of Pay.

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"What this report tells us is that firms are a big part of the solution to fixing the gender pay gap but they can't do it on their own."

The IPPR is calling on employers and the government to commit to fixing the gender pay gap issue, and believe they should strongly consider their proposal for men to work fewer hours.

"The solutions also have to come from individuals and from the government. In short, men need to work fewer hours and women need to work more," Colebrook said.

Fathers could be encouraged to take shared parental leave and work part-time, the IPPR says. Photo / 123rf
Fathers could be encouraged to take shared parental leave and work part-time, the IPPR says. Photo / 123rf

The IPPR suggests women face "motherhood penalties", with pay gaps dramatically increasing after women take time out to have children.

According to research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies undertaken for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, by the time a first child has reached 20, mothers earn almost a third less per hour, on average, than similarly educated fathers.

To combat this, the IPPR believe employers and men need to change their work habits, proposing that fathers become more flexible during parenthood and that more senior roles need to be offered as a job share.

They believe that by encouraging men to take on shared parental leave and part-time work that woman have a better chance of locking down higher-paying roles.

"Employers should encourage more men to work flexibly and to take time out for caring responsibilities," Colebrook said.

"Changing men's working behaviour is a crucial component of equalising pay. Employers could offer paid paternity leave on a 'use it or lose it' basis, make jobs flexible by default and encourage men to job-share."

In 2017, pay disparity between men and women in New Zealand sat at 12 per cent and has been stagnant in the past 10 years.

Men in New Zealand earn on average earn 68 cents more than women for every hour of work.