workplace women meeting

Congress pursues the broad gender equality agenda North and South under the guidance of the Joint Women’s Committee.

Both work jointly on areas of common interest, as well as pursuing initiatives within the two jurisdictions on the island.

Our work includes:

A range of submissions on gender equality related issues, including:

Recent Joint Women’s Committee Work included:

The Women’s Committee organized a National Women’s Conference in March 2020 in Whites Hotel, Wexford, just before the island wide lockdowns.  Entitled ‘Realising our Rights: Women Organising for Change’, the conference heard from the ICTU general Secretary as well as a range of guest speakers.

The large part of the agenda was taken up with debating motions covering topics including violence and harassment in the world of work, childcare, balancing caring responsibilities with work, parental leave frameworks and tackling insecure work.  

Women and Leadership

Building on motions to the ICTU Women’s Conference, Congress held a Women and Leadership course in early 2020, just before the first lockdown.   Women from across the island gathered together in Congress House in Dublin to work with facilitator Isobel Butler to explore themes of leadership in the trade union movement and in society.  Participants also heard from a range of trade union leaders about their experiences – speakers included ICTU General Secretary Patricia King, former ICTU President Sheila Nunan, ICTU Vice President Alison Millar, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary Ethel Buckley and Forsa President Anne McGee.

The lockdown put plans for a second face – face course on hold however working with Isobel, an online version of the course was launched in Autumn 2020.  Whilst it could not replicate the face to face experience, it nevertheless had excellent participation and good feedback.

Participants noted than the course was:

Well facilitated with lots of practical activities that got people talking in the room. Covered a lot leadership theory but in a very meaningful way

I found the course extremely helpful, it drew attention to different types of leadership models, what makes a good/bad leader, also made the participants think, talk, respond and report.


International Women’s Day 2021

The Women’s Committee decided to build on the theme of leadership and organize a webinar to mark International Women’s Day 2021.

The webinar focused on Leadership, Women and Change – in work and in society and Women and Leadership within the trade union movement – a reflection.
Speakers included ICTU General Secretary Patricia King, Chairs of the Northern Ireland Assembly Women’s Caucus and Green Party leader Clare Bailey, Chair of the Oireachtas Women’s Caucus Fiona O’Loughlin as well as contributions from a range of affiliates.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2021

ICTU was instrumental in organising a Women’s Council of the Isles Joint Statement to mark 25 November 2020, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Signed by each of the General Secretaries from ICTU, TUC, WTUC and STUC, the statement noted that domestic abuse is always a workplace issue and trade unions know that work is often a place of safety for women experiencing domestic abuse.

During the lockdowns many women were stuck at home with the perpetrator of violence, unable to escape to, what for many women, is the safety of their workplace. We called on our Governments to immediately ratify ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.  Article 18 of the accompanying recommendation specifies measures which should be taken to mitigate the impacts of domestic violence at work including leave for the victims of domestic violence, flexible work arrangements and the inclusion of domestic violence in workplace risk assessments.”

We hosted a webinar on the ratification campaign for ILO Convention 190 on violence and harassment in the world of work, including participation by Marie Clarke Walker (CLC and Chair of the Workers Group during the negotiation of the instrument at the ILO) and the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment. We continue to campaign for the ratification of the Convention.

Gender Pay Gap

Legislative measures to tackle the Gender Pay and Pensions Gap were published in 2019 and finally completed the legislative process in July 2021. Congress was an active advocate for such measures.

The Act amends the Employment Equality Act 1998 to require regulations to be made that will require certain employers (250 employees for first two years and thereafter will not apply to an employer having fewer than 50 employees) to publish information in relation to the gender pay gap in their organisations.

Congress also participates in ETUC discussion and actions on the Eu pay transparency proposal published in March 2021. The Minister has indicated that provisions of the Directive will be reviewed in the context of the provisions of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019 and existing employment obligations and entitlements.

The Commission proposals currently will only apply to companies with more than 250 employees and the Minister has confirmed to Congress that this will not impact the current plans to extend the requirements in the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill to companies with 50 or more employees.

Congress has convened a working group on the gender pay gap convened in light of the two processes towards legislation on pay transparency. We are currently involved in a project to build capacity for unions on interrogating gender pay gap audits and developing a set of common proposals for the collective bargaining agenda.  

Transposition of the Work Life Balance Directive

Congress has been advocating for the Irish government to transpose the Directive as rapidly and comprehensively as possible including an inclusive consultation process.

The Directive includes commitments to introduce paternity leave and carer’s leave – areas largely covered by Irish law, but also includes an individual right to 4 months of parental leave, from which 2 months are non-transferable between the parents and are paid, and flexible working arrangements - the right for parents to request these arrangements has been extended to include working carers as well as working parents of children up to eight years old.

Congress has done a range of submissions on flexible working – resulting in a commitment by DETE to legislate for a right to request in line with many of our EU partner countries.  We have also welcomed improvements in our provision of paid “parents leave” – due to rise from the current 5 weeks to seven in July 2022), while pointing out that the EU WLB Directive, to be transposed by summer 2022, requires this to rise to 9 weeks by 2024.

We have also raised the fact that research widely shows that compensation is key for the uptake of family-related leaves, especially for lower income families and men and the low level of payment needs to be addressed.