While the UK have recently brought in Regulations to address the gender pay gap in Ireland, the gap is widening. The European Commission has reported that the pay gap in 2008 was 12.6%. However, this rose to 14.4% in 2012. A more recent OECD survey has reported a gap of 16% in 2015, ranking Ireland 25th out of 33 countries in their Women in Work Index. According to the European Commission, Ireland is among only five other EU countries, which have seen a gender pay gap increase in recent years. This is despite Equal Pay legislation, which has been in place in Ireland since 1975 and places an obligation on employers to pay employees the same pay when carrying out ‘like work’ or jobs of ‘equal value’.
The gender pay gap in Ireland is significantly higher in the top 10% of earners, who suffer a gap of 24.6%, while the bottom 10% of earners suffer a gap of 4%.
The UK recently implemented the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2016, which came into effect in October 2016. This requires employers with 250 or more employees to ascertain their gender pay and bonus gap by 6 April 2017 and publish this information on their websites before 6 April 2018. The report is required to consider the average pay and bonuses received by men and women in the organisation. It must cover employees, workers and contractors. There is also a requirement to publish the number of men and women in different salary brackets in order to track career progression.
However, the Regulations are limited in that:
- The Regulations only apply to the private sector.
- Reporting is voluntary and therefore cannot be enforced.
- Employers will not be penalised for non-compliance.
- Genuinely self-employed and agency workers are not included.
- the Regulations do not apply to partners of firms, such as legal, accounting, and architect’s practices.
In May 2016 the Irish government put the gender pay gap on their agenda when they published ‘A Programme for a Partnership Government’. The programme committed to “seek to promote wage transparency by requiring companies of 50 and more employees to complete a wage survey”, however no further progress has since been made.
Iceland have recently become the first country officially to require gender pay equality. This law requires both public and private sector companies who employ 25 or more staff to obtain a certificate demonstrating that they pay all employees equally regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality.
The question is whether Ireland will be next to follow in the UK’s footsteps anytime soon? The benefit of such regulations is questionable if reporting regulations are voluntary, unenforceable and exclude large sectors of the workforce such as the public sector and key high earners in legal and accountancy practices. Other commentators suggest that employers should be required to have an action plan for narrowing the gender pay gap and there should be proper sanctions for employers who refuse to publish this information.
If you have any specific questions on gender pay, or indeed any other employment law issue, please feel free to contact the employment law team at CC Solicitors.