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Published 21 September 2018
Gender equality has been at the forefront of recent news, including the #metoo movement with particular emphasis on sexual harassment in the workplace, on which we have recently written separately.
Another live issue refers to differences in pay between genders. OECD data has shown that every country in the OECD has a gender pay gap which favours men. According to Eurostat figures in 2007, the gender pay gap in Ireland was 17.3%. In 2014 this figure was 13.9%. Although it is moving in the right direction, there are clearly improvements to be made.
The UK has introduced mandatory reporting for employers with more than 250 employees effective from 5 April 2018. Employers to which the reporting requirements apply must publish data on the gender pay gap in their organisation on their website annually. The UK government has recently confirmed that all 10,000 UK employers who were required to publish their gender pay gap information have now done so.
The gender pay gap refers to the difference average difference between what women are paid to men. Unlike other EU countries, there is currently no obligation on employers in Ireland to publish such information. Equal pay is different in that it refers to the principle that men and women must be paid equal pay for equal work. Equal pay has been protected in Ireland since the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974, and more recently by the Employment Equality Act, 1998.
In June 2018, the General Scheme of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill (the "Bill") was approved by Cabinet and published. The proposed Bill does not indicate what the reporting obligations will look like, rather it allows the Minister to make Regulations requiring employers to publish information to show whether there are differences in the pay of male and female employees, and if so, the scale of those differences. This Bill follows a private members bill, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Gender Pay Gap Information) Bill 2017 published in 2017, which had originally sought to introduce gender pay reporting in Ireland.
The proposed Bill does not prescribe precisely how often employers will be required to publish such information. However, it does state that they will not be required to do so more than once per year. This is in line with the current position in the UK.
The Bill envisages a number of enforcement mechanisms including:
Although the Bill outlines of how it is envisaged gender reporting will work in Ireland, it is broad and full details on how it will operate are to be confirmed. This will be by way of Regulations. The Bill must now pass through the Dáil and the Seanad, being the Irish Houses of Parliament, and is likely to be amended, as it passes through the legislative process. However, the publication of two bills on gender pay reporting highlights that the pay gap will soon be tackled. Although not yet mandatory and it is unclear when it will be come law, employers in Ireland need to be aware of it and ensure that they are not exposed to allegations of unequal pay in breach of their obligations.
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