The UK has introduced mandatory reporting for employers with more than 250 employees effective from 5 April 2018. Employers to which the reporting requirements apply must publish data on the gender pay gap in their organisation on their website annually. The UK government has recently confirmed that all 10,000 UK employers who were required to publish their gender pay gap information have now done so.
What is the gender pay gap?
The gender pay gap refers to the difference average difference between what women are paid to men. Unlike other EU countries, there is currently no obligation on employers in Ireland to publish such information. Equal pay is different in that it refers to the principle that men and women must be paid equal pay for equal work. Equal pay has been protected in Ireland since the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974, and more recently by the Employment Equality Act, 1998.
How will this be addressed?
In June 2018, the General Scheme of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill (the "Bill") was approved by Cabinet and published. The proposed Bill does not indicate what the reporting obligations will look like, rather it allows the Minister to make Regulations requiring employers to publish information to show whether there are differences in the pay of male and female employees, and if so, the scale of those differences. This Bill follows a private members bill, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Gender Pay Gap Information) Bill 2017 published in 2017, which had originally sought to introduce gender pay reporting in Ireland.
Notable features of the Bill include:
- Employers will be obliged to publish gender pay data in both public and private sector entities with over 250 employees initially. The aim is to reduce this to 150 and eventually to 50 over the course of the next number of years. This is more wide reaching than the UK position, which limits the reporting obligations to larger employers.
- In addition to publication of information regarding the differences in mean and median hourly pay, information on differences in bonus pay, part time pay and pay of men and women on temporary contracts, the proportion of male and female employees who received bonus pay and benefits in kind must be published.
- Publication of differences in pay by reference to job classification may also be required.
The proposed Bill does not prescribe precisely how often employers will be required to publish such information. However, it does state that they will not be required to do so more than once per year. This is in line with the current position in the UK.
The Bill envisages a number of enforcement mechanisms including:
- The appointment of designated officers, who will be empowered to investigate breaches of the reporting obligations. The officers may provide a report on their findings to the Minister.
- A power for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission ("IHREC"), where it reasonably believes an employer has failed to discharge its reporting obligations, to apply to the Circuit Court for an Order requiring an employer to comply with the legislation.
- In addition, the Workplace Relations Commission will have a role. Employees may apply to the WRC for an Order requiring compliance, which can be appealed to the Labour Court. Interestingly, although hearings will generally be conducted in private, the Bill provides that the decisions will be published and will include the names of the complainant and respondent.
Although the Bill outlines of how it is envisaged gender reporting will work in Ireland, it is broad and full details on how it will operate are to be confirmed. This will be by way of Regulations. The Bill must now pass through the Dáil and the Seanad, being the Irish Houses of Parliament, and is likely to be amended, as it passes through the legislative process. However, the publication of two bills on gender pay reporting highlights that the pay gap will soon be tackled. Although not yet mandatory and it is unclear when it will be come law, employers in Ireland need to be aware of it and ensure that they are not exposed to allegations of unequal pay in breach of their obligations.