In our Insight in May, "Get Ready for Gender Pay Gap Reporting", we outlined that it was likely that draft legislation, aimed at reducing the gender pay gap ("GPG"), would be initiated by the Government before the summer recess.
On 26th June last, Cabinet approved the General Scheme of the GPG Information Bill ("the Bill"). Charlie Flanagan and David Stanton announced the publication of the General Scheme, which will compel employers with a certain number of employees to publish information on the GPG in their organisation.
In a statement, Mr Flanagan said that the Government is committed to gender equality and that both the programme for Government and our Second National Strategy for Women and Girls commits to wage transparency measures to tackle the GPG. He also stated as follows:
"While Ireland compares relatively well with the rest of the EU as regards the size of the gender pay gap – 13.9% compared with an EU 28 figure of 16.7% in 2014 – put simply, we want gender equality in Ireland and we are committed to tackling the gender pay gap. These pay transparency measures are part of a wider package of measures to promote gender equality".
Mr Stanton added:
"This is an important measure to help reduce the gender pay gap by publishing information about it at the firm level, thus furnishing a deeper insight into the causes of the gap and facilitating employers in addressing it".
Notable elements of the General Scheme of the Bill
The General Scheme of the Bill provides that the Minister for Justice and Equality will make Regulations requiring publication of information on the GPG in firms. Those Regulations will apply to employers with more than 250 employees initially, then to those with more than 150 employees and finally those with more than 50 employees. The Regulations will be applied to the public as well as to the private sector, subject to the employment thresholds.
In addition to differences in hourly pay, information on differences in bonus pay, part time pay and pay of men and women on temporary contracts will be among the data which must be published. The Regulations may also require publication of differences in pay by reference to job classifications.
The enforcement mechanisms 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. Also, an employee may apply to the Workplace Relations Commission for an Order requiring compliance. There is a provision also for designated officers who would investigate a sample of employers to ensure that the information published is accurate.
Information which will require to be published by employers
The General Scheme sets out that the information published by employers in accordance with the Regulations to be enacted shall include the following:
- Difference between the mean hourly pay of male employees and that of female employees;
- Difference between the median hourly pay of male employees and that of female employees;
- Difference between the mean bonus pay of male employees and that of female employees;
- Difference between the median bonus pay of male employees and that of female employees;
- Difference between the mean pay of part time male employees and that of part time female employees;
- Difference between the median pay of part time male employees and that of part time female employees;
- Difference between the mean pay of male employees on temporary contracts and that of female employees on such contracts;
- Difference between the median pay of male employees on temporary contracts and that of female employees on such contracts;
- Proportions of male and female employees who were paid bonus pay;
- Proportions of male and female employees who received benefits in kind; and
- Proportions of male and female employees in the lower, lower middle, upper middle and upper quartile pay bands.
Employee claims for breach of GPG reporting by employers
The General Scheme of the Bill envisages an amendment to our Employment Equality Act, 1998, to allow an employee, who claims that his or her employer has failed to comply with the Regulations made under the GPG legislation, to refer a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission. The WRC then has the power to investigate that complaint and to issue a decision in relation to it. Any investigation will be conducted in private.
At the conclusion of an investigation, if the decision is in favour of the Complainant, the WRC can provide for an order that the employer take a specified course of action in order to comply with the Regulations or, in the case of a decision on a preliminary issue, that an investigation into the substantive issue will follow.
Either party can then appeal that decision to the Labour Court.
In our previous Insight on 17th May last we set out what employers can do to prepare, in anticipation of the new GPG reporting regime.
GPG reporting is now an inevitability arising from the publication of the General Scheme of the Bill and is likely to be made a legal requirement later in 2018 or in 2019.
We will continue to track progress of this legislation closely and will continue to keep you updated on developments in that regard.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.