The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), an institution established to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, introduced two new Codes of Practice:
- The Code of Practice on Equal Pay, and
- The Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment at Work.
Both codes were introduced on International Women’s Day, 9th March, 2022 and both are approved by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Mr Roderic O’Gorman.
On the same day, Mr O’Gorman announced details of the introduction of gender pay gap reporting in Ireland.
Below, we give an overview of the two new codes as well as gender pay gap reporting, and look at the implications for employers and employees.
The Code of Practice on Equal Pay
The Code of Practice on Equal Pay gives practical guidance to employers, employees, and trade unions on matters such as:
- the right to equal pay,
- the elimination of pay inequality, and
- the resolution of pay disputes.
This Code reinforces the right of an employee not to be discriminated against because they fall within one of the nine protected grounds: gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race, and membership with the Traveller community.
Gender Pay Gap Reporting
IHREC has also been provided with new legal powers to tackle gender pay gaps in organisations through The Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021 (the 2021 Act).
The 2021 Act introduced a legislative basis for Gender Pay Gap reporting. Regulations will be introduced which place an obligation on employers to accurately report payment information.
The regulations will require organisations with over 250 employees to report on their gender pay gaps by December 2022. The reporting requirement will initially apply to organisations with 250 or more employees but will extend to organisations with 150 or more employees by 2024, and 50 or more employees by 2025.
The Regulations will also require employers to publish an opinion-based statement on the reasons for any gender pay gap in their company and what measures will be taken to eliminate the pay gap.
Mr O’Gorman has stated, ‘This reporting requirement will help to ensure pay transparency exists in organisations and will play an important role in achieving gender equality in the workplace.’
The Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment at Work
The Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment at Work defines what is meant by employment-related sexual harassment and harassment, how it can be prevented, and the steps that should be taken following an incident of harassment at work.
This Code provides a helpful summary of the key points in relation to harassment in the workplace in the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2021.
Both Codes Admissible as Evidence
While the codes do not impose any legal obligations on employers, they provide strong guidelines which all employers should follow. Employers should know that these codes are admissible as evidence in proceedings before the Workplace Relations Commission, the Labour Court, and the Circuit Court under Part VII of the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015, and can be used to corroborate any wrongdoings against an employee.
About the authors: Employment Solicitor Hugh Le Gear.