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Women in the UK are now working for free until the end of the year

Fiona Bruce was among some 40 women BBC presenters to write to the chairman demanding he act on the pay gap (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Women in Britain are now working for nothing until the end of the year because of the gender pay gap.

New research shows that such is the pay divide, that while men continue to earn, women in effect work for free for two-and-a-half months.

The 21% gender pay gap in Britain is worse than the European average at 17% – but by no means the worst.

MORE: PwC pays black, Asian and ethnic minority workers 13% less than white employees

Women in the UK stop being paid on 15th October whereas the average cut off date for Europe is 30th October.

The research revealed Estonia remains the worst country for the gender pay gap with the biggest difference between male and female salaries of all the European countries.

Women in Estonia stop being paid on 23rd September, which means they work for free for over three months.

MORE: Lord Sugar tells women to shout louder about unfair pay

Expert Market, a UK-based B2B service comparison site, used the most up to date gender pay gap statistics from Eurostat for its annual report.

Adelle Kehoe, of Expert Market, said: “This study brings the devastating effects of the gender pay gap into clear focus.

“It is astonishing that in the 21st century women are still suffering such financial penalties merely because of their gender.

“I hope this report encourages women across Europe to continue to campaign for gender equality in the workplace and in society as a whole.”

The graphic shows when women workers start working for nothing around Europe (Expert Market)

Italy and Luxembourg have the smallest gender pay gap of all the countries in the study. The 5% gap equates to women in these countries working for free from the 13th December.

Though this is the best result in the study, it still means that women in Italy and Luxembourg
work for free for over two weeks.

MORE: Pictured: The high-profile female stars who jointly wrote to BBC boss over gender pay gap

The gender pay gap has created big headlines in recent months. The BBC revealed earlier in the summer revealed two-thirds of its stars earning more than £150,000 are male, with Chris Evans the top-paid on between £2.2m and £2.25m.

Many women TV and radio presenters were earning well below their male colleagues for doing, in effect, the same job.

The revelations prompted a number of high profile figures, such as Emily Maitlis, Fiona Bruce, Victoria Derbyshire and Clare Balding, to demand BBC boss Lord Tony Hall act.