Why legal secretaries should avoid Belfast like the plague

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The Independent Online
A legal secretary working in Holborn, central London, can expect to earn on average pounds 19,100 a year, two-and-a-third times more than her counterpart in Belfast, according to a survey of 46 regional offices across Britain.

Variations in pay and benefits nationwide are wide and getting wider, according to the study of office workers by Select Appointments, the staffing service agency, released today.

Not only do employees in Northern Ireland earn the lowest salaries in the UK but they receive significantly fewer benefits. Fully 60 per cent of UK companies provide private health plans for their employees, while the average in Northern Ireland is just 10 per cent. The variations are even more striking for life assurance, where the figures are 60 per cent nationally and only 5 per cent in Northern Ireland.

As might be expected, there is a large salary gap between North and South, with employees in inner London, including the City, earning 24 per cent more than the national average and those in the Northeast receiving 19 per cent less.

"Even with the differences in the cost of living, the shortfall is quite considerable," Select Appointments said.

The general trend hides some unexpected variations, however. Just 20 per cent of firms nationally offer paternity leave, against 57 per cent in the North of England. In Northern Ireland and Scotland, meanwhile, it is highly unusual to offer days off to new fathers.

The Select survey, which was inaugurated in 1995, also provides some data year to year. Strikingly, the number of sick days offered to employees has dropped from 47 to 33 annually, and to just 10 days on average in Northern Ireland.

Signs of improving economic performance are reflected in the rise in the number of employees offered company bonus schemes, up 8 per cent, and in the numbers joining profit-related schemes, up 10 per cent.

Select is an international staffing agency, and operates 300 offices around the world.