The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019 (the Bill) was recently debated before the Select Committee on Justice and Equality.
The following points were discussed as being areas that require further consideration before the terms of the Bill can be agreed:
- Introducing a requirement which will require employers to report on the gender breakdown of full-time employees, part-time employees and employees who work flexible hours.
- Whether the current proposed thresholds for employers to have reporting obligations under the Bill are sufficient. As drafted, the Bill currently provides for a phased introduction:
- applying initially to companies with at least 250 employees;
- applying after two years to companies with at least 150 employees; and
- applying after three years to companies with at least 50 employees.
However, there had been earlier discussions where the Bill should apply to all employers with, in some suggestions made, as low as 10 – 15 employees.
- Introducing fines or ‘naming and shaming’ offenders.
Regard was had to the Labour Party’s Gender Pay Gap Bill whereby both Senator Bacik and the Minister of State indicated that any measure to take a ‘name and shame’ approach should be complemented by a ‘name and fame’ approach, listing companies that actively address the issue of the gender pay gap. One proposal was that offenders’ names be published in a report by International Research and Exchange, IREX.
There was also concern that a summary fine of €5,000 was possibly quite low for large organisations, who might be happier to accept a fine rather than comply.
- Considering whether differences in bonus pay should be reported on a per hour basis rather than as a difference in the total bonus pay. This would reflect the current proposal that wages are reported on an hourly basis. If the same approach is not adopted then it would mean that a male comparator might look like he has obtained a larger bonus than a female comparator, when perhaps the female’s bonus is less because she was working part time.
- Considering whether the list of public services organisations specified in the Bill covers all public service organisations. The Bill currently specifies the following organisations: each Department of State, each Scheduled Office within the meaning of the Public Service Management Act 1997, An Garda Siochána and the Defence Forces.
- Considering if the mechanism in relation to contempt of court can be improved. The Bill currently enables the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to apply to the Circuit Court for an order requiring compliance with the Bill. A person who fails to comply with any order will be in contempt of court. An issue highlighted was what powers a court would have to deal with a person who persists to be in contempt of court. The same issue arises in relation to enforcement orders made by the District Court regarding orders made by the WRC to comply with the Bill.
While gender pay gap planning might not yet be on some employers’ agenda, our advice is to start preparing by identifying:
- the gender pay information specified in the Bill;
- the reasons for any gender pay gaps; and
- the measures (if any) being taken, or proposed to be taken, to eliminate or reduce any gender pay gaps.
Please feel free to contact Ogier Leman, should you need any advice on how to prepare for your gender pay gap reporting obligations. Preparation is key and could also be good for morale when showing transparency in the workplace.