FEMALE solicitors are paid 42 per cent less than their male counterparts, according to the Law Society of Scotland. Research carried out by the society also suggests women in the legal industry are passed over for promotions.

The society say the figure has been reached through comparing average full-time and full-time equivalent salaries for women and men at all career stages.

It is more than twice the size of the UK’s gender pay gap.

Janet Hood, of the Law Society of Scotland’s equality and diversity committee, said: “A 42 per cent gender pay gap reflects very badly on what is otherwise a modern and forward-thinking profession – with some female solicitors effectively working for free for five months of the year.

“There are many and nuanced reasons why the gender pay gap exists, and the legal profession is certainly not alone – figures from November 2014 show that the overall UK gap was 9.4 per cent. However we have seen little change in the past decade compared to other professions such as accountancy or dentistry and it is a major concern that such a substantial gap persists 45 years after the UK Equal Pay Act and 10 years of Law Society equality research and promoting good practice within the legal profession.” The 9.4 per cent figure is the median full time gender pay gap, effectively all full time men vs all full time women. The figure is 19.1 per cent when you take into account part time jobs as well.

Hood said that employers had a legal responsibility to pay their staff equally.

“They need to be aware of the extent of the gender pay gap within their own organisations and take action to ensure that they meet their obligations and, importantly, work to retain talented individuals who can help their businesses thrive.

“Many government and other organisations sourcing legal services also include equality criteria as part of their tendering processes. If law firms are not taking steps to ensure that they are meeting these, they could be adversely affected.”

The average gender pay gap within Scotland’s legal profession ranges from two per cent to 38 per cent, and affects solicitors across the board. Those working in private practice law firms are as affected by the gap as those working in-house for other organisations.

Although there is little difference between male and female solicitors’ earnings when they are young and starting out, the two start to diverge from age 36 onwards. From then, women are more likely to be found in salary bands up to £65,000 and men in salary bands over £65,000.

The research findings have also shown that women tend to remain associates or assistants rather than be promoted to partner level.

Debbie Ashford from the Fawcett Society was not hugely surprised by the findings said: “The gender pay gap remains the clearest and most dramatic example of economic inequality for women today. Worryingly lower earnings over a lifetime then usually lead to lower savings, smaller pensions and less economic independence than men.”

Nationally in all professions, the Fawcett Society say there is relatively little gender pay gap for young women in UK. Women under 30 experienced a gap of less than 5 per cent in 2013. As with the lawyers, the gap really opens up among women over 30 due to women overwhelmingly taking on caring responsibilities. Thirty to 39-year-old women will then experience a gap of 12 per cent, and 40 to 59-year-old women will experience a pay gap of 26 per cent compared to men.

The Fawcett Society also said beyond salary figures, there is a significant gap in bonuses and other performance-related pay.