In April 2019, the Government presented the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019 to the Dáil.
The Bill proposes to amend the Employment Equality Act 1998-2015, by introducing regulations that will require certain employers to publish information relating to remuneration of their employees by reference to the employees’ gender.
What is the gender pay gap?
The gender pay gap is defined as the relative difference in the average gross earnings of women and men within the economy as a whole. In the EU, the gender pay gap is referred to officially as the ‘unadjusted gender pay gap’, as it does not take into account all of the factors that impact on the gender pay gap, such as differences in education, labour market experience, hours worked, type of job. The gender pay gap is not an indicator of the overall inequality between women and men as it only relates to salaried men and women.
According to the latest figures published by Eurostat in 2016, the gender pay gap in Ireland was 13.9 %, while the gender pay gap across the EU overall was 16.2 %. There are considerable differences between EU countries, with the gender pay gap ranging from less than 8% in Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia to more than 20% in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia and the UK.
When this legislation is introduced, Ireland will join many other countries such as Iceland, Australia, Germany, Belgium and the UK, by imposing reporting obligations.
Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr Charlie Flanagan, (“the Minister”) when introducing the Bill stated, “Greater transparency in this area will help us to identify the factors that contribute to the gender pay gap and will incentivise employers to take measures to reduce that gap.”
The Obligations in the Bill
The Bill provides for the Minister to introduce regulations requiring employers;
- to show whether there are differences in remuneration referable to gender, and if there are such differences, the size of such differences; and
- to publish statements or narratives setting out the reasons for such differences, and the measures, if any, taken, or proposed to be taken, to eliminate or reduce such differences.
Employers will be obliged to report the following information:
- the difference between the mean and median hourly remuneration of male and female employees;
- the difference between the mean and bonus remuneration of male and female employees;
- the difference between the mean and median remuneration of part-time male and female employees; and
- the proportions of men and women receiving bonuses and benefits-in-kind.
The reporting obligations under the Bill will be introduced on a phased basis:
Number of Employees
Effective Date of Reporting Obligations
Mandatory reporting will be in force two years after the introduction of the Regulations by the Minister
50 - 150
Three years after the introduction of the Regulations
Below 50 employees
As currently drafted, the Bill will not apply to employers with fewer than 50 employees
The current Bill is one of two pieces of legislation moving through the Oireachtas relating to the gender pay gap. A private members bill entitled the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Gender Pay Gap Information) Bill 2017 (“the IHREC Bill”), was introduced in the Seanad in May of 2017 and is currently at Third Stage before the Dáil. The IHREC Bill is unlikely to proceed further in light of the proposed Government Bill.
The Bill provides for the following oversight:
- the appointment of designated officers to investigate the accuracy of employer gender pay gap reporting and prepare a report on same;
- the Irish Human Rights Commission will have the power to apply to the Circuit Court for an order directing an employer to comply with its obligations; and
- individual employees may bring a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission seeking an investigation of an employer’s compliance with the legislation.
There is no provision for award of compensation to an individual employee, but there may be publicity for the parties.
Preparation for Employers
The Bill is expected to be signed into law this year.
Employers should take steps now to identify and rectify any pay gaps which may exist within their organisation in preparation for the commencement of the legislation.
If you require further information or assistance in relation to the proposed gender pay gap reporting obligations, please contact any member of the Employment Law team who will be able to assist.
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About the Authors
Breda practises in both Employment and Commercial Law and is currently the Head of the Employment Law team at Hayes solicitors. Breda has trained and qualified as a mediator with the UK based, internationally renowned Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR). Breda practices as a mediator of commercial, employment, boardroom, charity trustee and shareholder disputes.
Niamh is a Solicitor in the Employment Law team at Hayes Solicitors. Niamh advises both employees and employers, relating to both contentious and non-contentious employment and industrial relations matters, including recruitment, employment contracts and workplace policies, redundancies and dismissals.