The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill was introduced by the Labour Party earlier this year. Its purpose is to require large employers to publish information relating to employee pay in order to show whether there are differences in the pay of male and female workers. The Bill was passed by the Seanad (with all party support) before the Oireachtas summer break. It will go to the Committee stage in the autumn where consultation will take place.
IBEC, the employers’ representative body, said that it supported the calculations being made but was opposed to making the information public.
A large employer is defined as one employing more than fifty employees. Therefore the remit of this legislation could extend quite far.
Women’s equality groups, trade unions and opposition politicians have been vocal in their support of this legislation. In June Linda Kelly of Impact stated “At the current rate of action, the United Nations reckons it will take 70 more years before women’s average pay matches men’s,” She continued “passing the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill would be a strong signal that Ireland doesn’t just care about equal pay, but that we mean to do something decisive about it. Not in 70 years’ time, but now.”
At a national level the gender pay gap is said to be about 14 per cent. Recently, RTÉ has been under the spotlight due to an acknowledgment by Sharon Ni Bheoláin that she earns less than half of Brian Dobson’s salary. RTÉ has subsequently committed to reviewing gender pay across the organisation.
If this Bill becomes law, those large employers with a gender pay gap will clearly suffer bad publicity. It may lead to consumer and other businesses taking account of the gender pay gap when making decisions about how they spend their money. But there may be further legal ramifications.
Existing legislation allows the Human Rights and Equality Commission to invite an employer to carry out an equality review and to thereafter implement an equality action plan. A failure to comply with an action plan is an offence and can lead to fines. The Commission also has powers of inquiry. It can investigate and then require an employer to take steps to address their violation of the law.
If large employers are required to publish information relating to employee pay and a gender pay gap is evident, they may well find themselves in the Commission’s crosshairs.
If this Bill becomes law, the bottom line for large employers is that they will be forced to change their ways and they will see salary costs increase.
For more information contact Marc Fitzgibbon, Partner in our Employment Law Group.