THE North-East has one of the lowest gender pay gaps in the country, according to new figures – but the gap between men and women’s pay is widening in several places.

Last year, men in every area of the region received average hourly earnings that were significantly higher than the wages paid to women.

The impact of motherhood, women in low paid part-time roles and male dominated boardrooms are among factors believed to be contributing to a pay gap that now stands at 8.6 per cent for the region’s full-time employees and 17.4 per cent overall.

While the North-East’s gap for all workers has narrowed slightly – dropping almost two per cent since 2018 – it has grown in Northumberland, County Durham, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Sunderland.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics figures have prompted calls for the Government to do more to tackle the issue, with union TUC warning that it could take 60 years for the pay gap to close.

In part-time roles, North-East women do receive 4.7 per cent more than men, but experts believe this could be because there are more females employed in such jobs, which commonly have lower hourly pay than full-time roles and are more likely to be in lower-paid occupations.

Median rates for all employees show that County Durham had the region’s largest gender pay gap in 2019, with men paid 22.6 per cent more than women.

With a growth of 4.4 per cent, the gap widened most in Northumberland between 2018 and 2019, where the disparity between male and female pay now stands at 22.5 per cent.

While full time male workers are still paid more than women in every geographical area of the region, the gap is closing in areas including Tyneside, Redcar and Cleveland, Darlington and Stockton.

Constituency level data analysed by The Northern Echo shows that Sunderland Central is one of just 13 constituencies in the country where women are paid more than men, earning around 4 per cent more.

Changes to the Equality Act in 2017 mean that large companies must now report their gender pay gap figures annually but Beth Farhat, regional secretary for Northern TUC, said the move was “a start but nowhere near enough” as she urged the Government to go further or risk consigning “future generations of women to losing out”.

She called on employers to publish ‘action plans’ alongside their data, saying: “We have transparency around the size of pay gaps but not around what employers are actually doing to close them – this needs to change.”

Ms Farhat said ‘pregnancy discrimination’ and job segregation were contributory factors, saying that mothers should have improved access to flexible working and that women should be better represented in higher paid industries such as engineering and finance.

She added: “We also need to improve pay for “women’s work” by valuing important jobs done by predominantly female staff, like nursery nurses or carers, by increasing pay, progression and status.”

The gender pay gap represents the difference between men and women’s hourly earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings, excluding overtime.

It is not the same as equal pay, which compares the wages paid to men and women doing the same job and has been a legal requirement since 1970.

Nationally, there is a gender pay gap of 8.9 per cent for full-time employees and 17.3 per cent overall, with the widest disparity in the South East.

The ONS figures show a pay gap greater than zero in 79 per cent of occupations, with the largest gaps in carpentry and joinery and for energy plant operatives.

The lowest pay gaps are reported among archivists, curators, personal assistants and other secretarial roles.

By age group, the gap is widest for 50 to 59-year-olds and smallest for 16 to 17-year-olds.