WOMEN have been working for free so far this year because of the gender pay gap, according to a new study.

Research by the TUC found that the 18 per cent pay gap for both full and part-time workers means women only start getting paid today, compared with the average male employee.

Women in Britain are estimated to be losing out on nearly £140bn in wages due to the gender pay gap - an equivalent of £9,112 each, 2016 analysed by the Young Women's Trust last year showed.

While the North-East was found to have the smallest margin in pay between the sexes along with Wales, the gap was still 17 per cent, or £5,600 a year.

And the North-East's management gender pay gap was one of the highest in the country, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI)found earlier this year.

Male managers in the region are paid £10,958 more than women, or a massive 28.8 per cent more.

The TUC has dubbed today Women's Pay Day, which coincides with the annual International Women's Day.

Differences in pay are even bigger in industries dominated by women, such as education, health and social work and finance and insurance, said the union organisation.

General secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Nearly 50 years since the Ford machinists went on strike at Dagenham, the UK still has one of the worst gender pay gaps in Europe. Women effectively work for free for two months a year.

"Companies publishing information on their gender pay gaps is a small step in the right direction but it's nowhere near enough.

"Women in the UK will only start to get paid properly when we have better paid part-time and flexible jobs, and higher wages in key sectors like social care."

The average salary of a female manager in the North-East is £27,025, including bonuses and commission, compared to £37,983 for men, according to the report.

And the CMI report found North-East women were more likely to be in junior management than men, while the pay gap was considerably wider for those at director level.

And a report published last month by Nigel Wright Recruitment showed that 81 per cent of men in the North-East considered there was no gender pay gap, compared with just 69 per cent of women in the region.