A CHARITY has warned that the pandemic could “turn the clock back” for a generation of Cumbrian women over equal pay.

The Fawcett Society has made the claim to mark Equal Pay Day, today, after data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), suggests that women in Carlisle, Copeland and Allerdale work up four months for free over the course of a year, compared to men.

Equal Pay Day is marked because the charity claims it is the day women stop being paid, if they were at the same hourly rate as men but remained on the same salary over the course of a year.

ONS data shows stark differences in pay rates across Cumbria.

In April, for example, the data shows women in Copeland earned an average hourly salary of £17.90, 31 per cent less than men, who earned £26.08.

This means they have worked without pay from September 9 –nearly four months.

The ONS warned, however, that Copeland’s data could be dodgy because of the small sample size.

The same figures show women in Carlisle at £11.75 – 16 per cent less than men, who earned £13.98. The charity’s methodology means they worked without pay from November 4.

In Allerdale women earned an average of £9.53 – 26 per cent less than men at £12.78.

Their pay stops on September 30.

However, at a national level the average hourly rate of £12.50 and for men it is £14.79, and the gender pay gap has been narrowing.

The charity says that hourly figures are used to remove the effect of overtime.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society chief executive, said the impact of the coronavirus has the potential to “turn the clock back for a generation”.

He added: “The second lockdown looks set to hit women working in hospitality and retail hard while predominantly male-dominated sectors like construction and manufacturing are still at work.

“Men are more likely to have worked under furlough and to have had their pay topped up.

“Mothers are more likely to have had their work disrupted due to unequal caring roles and a lack of childcare.”

Other factors however include women doing more part-time work, choosing lower-paid roles and a lack of women entering well-paid professions like engineering.