Most of the best-paid occupations in Britain are ‘no-go’ areas for part-time workers, with fewer than one in seven employees in these top jobs working shorter hours, the TUC warns ahead of its annual women’s conference.

The TUC analysis of the ten best and ten worst paid occupations in the UK shows a stark gender divide. Nearly two-thirds of the 900,000 employees in the best-paid occupations – such as financial managers and medical practitioners – are male. Legal professionals, headteachers and college principals are the only top paying occupations that employ more women than men.

There is also a lack of part-time positions in the top jobs, says the TUC. Employees are half as likely (13.7 per cent) to work part-time in top paying professions as they are in the rest of the labour market (28.3 per cent).

Amongst chief executives and senior officials – the best paying occupation in the UK with an average hourly wage of £43.17 – just 6.6 per cent of employees work part-time and just one in four are female.

In contrast, the lowest-paid occupations – such as retail assistants and cleaners – are dominated by women and part-time work. Of the 2.6m employees in the ten lowest paying occupations – where average hourly wages range from £6.20 to £6.82 – 1.7m employees are female and 1.8m work part-time.

Around three-quarters of waiters, waitresses and bar staff – the joint-lowest paid occupations with an average hourly wage of just £6.20 and where two-thirds of the workforce is female – work part-time.

Vehicle valeting and cleaning is the only low-paid job that employs more men than women, and has a disproportionately high number of full-time workers.

The concentration of women and part-time workers in the UK’s low-wage sectors shows why fair pay remains such a big issue for women, and why part-time work so often pushes working women into poverty, says the TUC.

The virtual elimination of the gender pay gap for full-time workers under 40 years of age will be of little comfort to the millions of women who have had to trade down jobs or put their careers on hold to find work that fits around their childcare or caring responsibilities, says the TUC.

The TUC is concerned that opportunities for part-time and flexible working are generally restricted to fairly low-level positions, or to those women already well-established in their jobs who ask for reduced hours and flexibility on their return from maternity leave.

If a woman cannot work flexibly in her established career so has to look for part-time work elsewhere, she is likely to suffer a big loss in pay and find herself working below her previous skill level, says the TUC.

The TUC wants to see more better-paid, skilled jobs advertised as being open to flexible working and believes this would happen if the right to request flexible working was available on someone’s first day at work. The public sector should also lead the way by making all new advertised posts available on either a part-time or flexible basis, says the TUC.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Young women are more than able to match their male colleagues as they start out in their careers. But too much of their talent and experience goes to waste as soon as they have children and seek greater flexibility in their working hours.

“Employers’ blinkered refusal to allow senior staff to work part-time and flexibly means that many top-paying occupations are complete ‘no-go’ areas for staff wanting to work shorter hours. Instead, millions of women are forced into low-paying sectors.

“This ensuring descent into working poverty is all too familiar for millions of women working part-time – two in five of whom currently earn less than the living wage.

“So far the government’s efforts appear to be focused on getting more women into the boardroom. But whilst it’s important to have more women in these top positions, the other 99 per cent of the female workforce cannot be ignored.

“We need more senior positions opened up to part-time and flexible work, so that a reduction in your hours doesn’t result in poverty rates of pay.”