Employment Update: New General Scheme of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill – What Employers Need to Know

29 June 2018

Gender pay gap reporting has been a particularly hot topic for the last year. EU figures show that in Ireland, women currently earn around 13.9% less than men, which is just slightly less than the EU average, which stands at around 16.7%.

In 2017, the UK introduced legislation which forces organisations employing over 250 people to report annually on their gender pay gap. Earlier this year, the revelation that Elizabeth Foy, who played Queen Elizabeth in the award-winning UK Netflix series “The Crown”, was paid significantly less than her male co-star, Matt Smith, evoked a huge media response.  The outcry ultimately resulted in the actress reportedly being paid €226,000 in back pay by the series producers.

In Ireland, there is currently no legal obligation on employers to publish gender pay gap information. However, figures released in July 2017 in relation to gender pay gaps within our national broadcaster, RTE, caused much debate across the country. In response to the issue, the Government pledged in its programme for government to introduce concrete measures to reduce the gender pay gap. 

The General Scheme of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill was published this week and proposes new transparency measures with a view to tackling the gender pay gap.

What do the current proposals say?

The new Bill will provide for regulations requiring employers to publish certain information on the gender pay gap within their organisations. Reporting requirements will only apply to organisations with more than 250 employees initially, with the threshold falling to 150 employees, and finally, to 50 employees, over the next three years.

The categories of information to be published mirror the categories of information which must be reported in the UK. In particular, the Bill will require employers to report on:

  • The difference in average hourly and bonus pay for men and women
  • The proportions of men and women receiving bonuses, and
  • The number of men and women in each of four pay bands

The Bill will provide for enforcement mechanisms. These will 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, and also, a right for employees to apply to the Workplace Relations Commission for an order requiring compliance. 

A step in the right direction

While the new legislation is not, in itself, enough to tackle the gender pay gap or its underlying causes, it is certainly a step in the right direction. Minister Staunton has acknowledged, therefore, that additional measures would be needed to tackle the problem. He indicated that further actions were being pursued in the framework of the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020, with a view to increasing the number of women in higher paid roles, improving childcare provision and dealing with gender stereotypes.

What does this mean for employers?

Although the text of the legislation has yet to be finalised, it seems very likely that employers will be faced with mandatory gender pay gap reporting this year. In the circumstances, it is advisable that employers be proactive and seek to address any gender pay gap within their organisation. Given the heightened awareness of differences in treatment between genders, failing to address the gender pay gap could expose employers to discrimination claims and industrial relations issues.

For more information on gender pay gap reporting, please contact a member of our Employment & Benefits team. 

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.

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