Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019
10 Apr 2019
Earlier this week, the Government published the long awaited Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019. The Act will amend the Employment Equality Act 1998 to require regulations to be made that will require certain employers to publish information in relation to the gender pay gap in their organisations.
The issue of mandatory reporting of gender pay gaps within organisations has been on the Congress agenda for a number of years now:
- Congress focussed on the issue at our 2017 Women’s Seminar where the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, spoke about the Government’s plans;
- Congress submitted views to the Government consultation and General Secretary, Patricia King spoke at a symposium held in January 2018;
- We also met with Minister David Stanton on the matter along with IBEC in March 2018;
- A Congress delegation including Fórsa and SIPTU participated in an Oireachtas Committee hearing along with IBEC and the National Women’s Council on the issue in November 2018.
Our work has been effective although it has taken some time to get to this point. The main provisions of the Bill include much of what we sought including:
- Gender pay gap reporting is initially limited to organisations with more than 250 employees – thereby omitting about two-thirds of the workforce. Importantly, however, the Bill proposes to lower that threshold to 50 after three years. Congress would like to see this happening quicker and for consideration to be given to an even lower threshold. We had previously called on the Government to reduce the minimum threshold of applicable firms from those with 50 employees to 20 employees. As it currently stands, the Bill will capture just 1.4% of firms and 57% of all employees, based on the CSO’s 2016 Business demography data. Lowering the threshold to 20 employees would capture 70% of employees
- The Act also requires data to be disclosed by pay band and job classification.
- The Act also requires reporting on differences in bonus pay, part-time pay and the pay of men and women on temporary contracts.
- Congress had pushed strongly for a narrative statement to accompany the data published and the Bill requires a statement setting out the reasons for such differences in that employer’s case, and the measures (if any) being taken, or proposed to be taken, by the employer to eliminate or reduce such differences in that employer’s case. While we would like to see a mandatory action plan included, this provision is an important one for trade unions and opens up space for negotiating actions to tackle the gender pay gap in companies.
Absent from the Bill are clear penalties for non-compliance in respect of companies that report inaccurate data, as well as those that fail to report. It is not clear either that companies will have to compare males and females who work full time hours with males and females who work part time. It is not sufficient to compare PT male and female workers. This is important because those working fewer hours suffer a basic earnings, bonus and career progression penalty over the course of their working life, relative to full time workers. Therefore, in order to understanding the underlying factor behind the gender pay gap, part time workers must be compared with full time workers. Some of these issues may be addressed in the regulations or as part of the review signalled in Section 6.
There is no commencement date as of yet and no indication as to how soon after companies will be required to report. It is imperative now that the Government seek to enact this legislation without further delay. Failure to amend legislation put forward by Senator Ivana Bacik that was at an advanced stage in the Oireachtas has delayed implementation for some time.
To conclude, while increased transparency around pay will of itself not close the gender pay gap, it is an extremely important step in promoting actions to tackle the problem at enterprise level. Congress will continue to advocate to realise these important amendments.
David Joyce, Equality officer
National Women's Council here
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