In the UK, mandatory gender pay gap reporting indicated that on average 77% of employers pay men more than they pay women. Legislation requiring gender pay gap reporting was introduced there in 2017 and organisations with greater than 250 employees were required to submit their first report in April this year. Similar legislation is likely to be introduced in Ireland by the end of this year, as the general scheme of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill was approved by Cabinet in June and will be submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality for pre-legislative scrutiny.
The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill will compel companies to publish information on the gender pay gap in their organisations. The Gender Pay Gap is the difference between the average gross earnings of female and male employees.
The information required to be published by employers will include:
- the difference between the mean and median hourly pay and bonus pay of male employees and that of female employees;
- the difference between the mean and median pay of part-time male employees and that of part-time female employees;
- and the difference between the mean and median pay of male employees on temporary contracts and that of female employees on such contracts.
Also required to be reported is
- the proportions of male and female employees who were paid bonus pay,
- the proportions of male and female employees who received benefits in kind,
- and the proportions of male and female employees in the lower, lower middle, upper middle and upper quartile pay bands.
The regulations may also require publication of differences in pay by reference to job classifications.
The regulations will initially apply to employers with 250 or more employees, then to those with 150 or more, and finally those with 50 or more. They will apply to the public as well as the private sector.
The enforcement mechanisms include a power for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to apply to the Circuit Court for an order requiring an employer to comply with the legislation. Also, an employee of the employer concerned may apply directly to the Workplace Relations Commission for an order requiring compliance. There is also a provision for designated officers who would investigate a sample of employers to ensure that the information published is accurate.
Even though the right to equal pay has been enshrined in Irish law since 1974 (the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act), Ireland’s average gender pay gap is 13.9%. Reasons suggested include that there are more senior men than women in the workplace as a whole, women’s caring roles and the predominance of women in part-time roles. Certainly, senior people tend to be paid more than junior people, and men’s dominance of senior positions has a negative effect on the gender pay gap. However, caring responsibilities and part-time roles are shared unequally and women’s earnings fall significantly after maternity leave. But these are symptoms of the underlying cause, not the reasons for the pay gap per se. The gender pay gap is complex and is concerned with gender stereotyping and unconscious bias, in recruitment, selection, promotion and performance appraisal decisions and practices.
Are Irish companies ready to address the issue of gender pay differentials?
In the short term, companies can prepare for the legislation and review their HR and payroll systems to confirm that the required data on pay can be easily extracted. Companies can then conduct an equal pay audit and analyse their data to identify the reasons behind any gaps and take steps to address them.
Organisations may also wish to review their policies in relation to recruitment, promotion and performance reviews to ensure they are transparent. If organisations take steps now, they can address any gender pay gaps which exist, put measures in place to encourage pay equality in their organisations and ensure compliance when the legislation comes into force.
For expert advice and/or training on dealing with the gender pay gap, or any aspect of employment equality, call Mary Cullen, on 056 770 1060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org