Taking a career break to raise children has long been considered a contributing factor to the pay gap between men and women in the teaching sector.

Although most teachers start out on comparable salaries, our latest report has shown that when women reach the age of 30, a pay gap begins to emerge between the sexes.

Despite women accounting for almost three out of four teachers in the industry, in senior positions, men can be paid up to 15% more than women. The gap is at its worst between the ages of 45 and 49 with women earning £36,400 on average and men receiving around £38,600. 

To make matters worse, our recent working women wages report suggests that an overwhelming 84% of women would never ask for a pay rise either, compared to 75% of men, for fear of jeopardising their current role. In the teaching sector, this problem can be partly attributed to the historic system of pay progression which was previously based solely on the length of service.

You can download our UK working women and pay rises report here for more insight and statistics.

Although this system was abolished in September 2013, female education professionals who have taken a break to raise children have seen their pay stall, compared to their male counterparts who usually continue to work and, as a result, see their pay rise more significantly. 

At a Women in Education Leadership Conference, Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, addressed this issuewhen she argued: “I just don’t think this is fair. A woman who’s taken a year, or even a few years, out to have children and raise a family certainly isn’t less capable than a teacher who hasn’t had this time away from the classroom.”

Despite the high numbers of women in education, there is also still a lack of progression to senior roles. Recent research has shown that women in leadership positions have dropped from 75% of the workforce to just 66%. The pay gap is actually at its worst for headteachers over 60, with research suggesting a pay gap of £12,000 has emerged in recent years. To add to this, it has also been revealed that there are 2,100 male headteachers who earn over £80,000 a year compared to just 1,600 female headteachers.

Jenny Rollinson, MD of Randstad Education says: “Women account for four out of five school staff in the UK but according to our latest survey results as many as 84% of the female workforce would never ask for a pay rise. It is disappointing that, despite making up such a predominant part of the education workforce at all levels, women feel unable to approach this matter. 

“Due to recent reforms regarding teachers’ pay, there is more flexibility than ever around schools being able to attract and retain staff through more attractive salaries. So there is an opportunity for women to take control of their careers and actively ask for pay reviews and seek leadership positions.”

Female teachers could ask their employers to match their salary when they return from maternity leave but our survey results reveal 37% don’t ask for fear of being turned down and another 35% are worried about their boss’ reaction. 

So if you’re a female teacher who has returned from maternity leave and you’re looking to negotiate a raise, here are three tips worth considering. 

1. Understand your value

Pay is no longer measured solely on the length of service so it is important you know your value before you go on maternity leave. Put together evidence showing your measurable achievements, any targets you have met and your performance. Look at whether your job has changed from when you originally started – has your workload increased? Have you been given more responsibility or a different role? You will stand a much better chance of getting a pay rise if you can show quantifiable and concrete reasons to support it.

2. Do your research

We’d all like to be paid millions but sadly, it’s unlikely to happen for the majority of us and you need to have a realistic salary in mind when you state your case. Check out what the average salary is for your role and get a sense of what you should be earning in your school. Look at job adverts for similar roles in your region and ask other teachers about their salary and responsibilities. You need to see if you’re being undervalued or not.

3. Have confidence in yourself

It can be nerve-wracking asking for a pay rise, especially if you have taken a year or two out to look after a new-born. Fortunately, negotiating is a skill that can be learned and you need to be confident in your own abilities. Time off to raise children shouldn’t diminish your teaching skills and it’s important to remember that length of service shouldn’t dictate your aspirations. You’re still the talented teacher you were prior to having children and you need to point that out during any negotiations you have.

If you’re looking for more advice on how to negotiate a pay rise, take a read of our list of things to consider here.