A leading business organisation says more must be done to address the gender pay gap in Cumbria.

The county's chamber of commerce says latest figures, which reveal little progress has been made nationally since the Government brought in a requirement for larger employers to report the difference between median male and female pay, are a waste of potential.

The figures show that 78 per cent of employers continue to pay men more than women and, in 45 per cent of firms, the gap is growing.

Overall, the pay gap in favour of men has slightly risen at 9.7 per cent compared with 9.6 per cent a year ago.

The chamber’s chief executive Rob Johnston said: “Cumbria has a shrinking working-age population.

"This makes recruitment more difficult and means it is in the interests of employers to maximise the potential of all their staff.

“One way to do that is to ensure that the women in your workforce get every chance to progress and make the most of their capabilities.

“Not only is the gender pay gap unfair, it is a waste of potential.

“This isn’t about positive discrimination. It’s about creating an environment and culture that enables you to get the best out of all your employees, male or female.”

Suzanne Caldwell, the chamber’s deputy chief executive, said: “Simple measures such as flexible hours and part-time working can help to retain and develop female employees.

“The issue is in part structural, with increasing movement of women into traditionally male roles worsening the picture short term as women take up entry-level roles."