RTÉ ‘unable’ to provide gender pay gap data to Dáil committee

State-owned broadcaster criticised for ‘falling down’ on pay transparency

RTÉ is currently "unable to provide" the gender pay information that was requested by its own staff last year and will soon be required by law, director-general Dee Forbes told the Dáil's Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) on Thursday.

Ms Forbes said RTÉ had released data on male and female salary bands, but was “not in a position” to give the PAC or the RTÉ trade union group the “specific details” of mean and median hourly and bonus pay by gender.

"We don't have information in that format," she said in response to questions from Green Party finance and health spokeswoman Neasa Hourigan.

RTÉ's most recent review of gender equality, conducted in 2017, declared a pay gap of 4 per cent, which is better than the national average. But unlike other semi-State organisations, including An Post and Dublin Bus, it has not published detailed reports on its gender pay gap ahead of imminent regulations requiring larger companies to do so.

Ms Hourigan, citing An Post’s progress in closing its gender pay gap, said she “found it hard to believe” that RTÉ could not compile a report on the gender pay gap if other similar organisations were able to do it.

“Not focusing on this issue when it has been so much in the public realm is absolutely a choice by the institution, and considering your remit as a State-supported body, to wait for legislation to force you to do it is really unfortunate,” she said.

“The way of calculating the gender pay gap has been in the public sphere for well over five years,” Ms Hourigan added.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy agreed with Ms Hourigan's criticisms and said RTÉ was "falling down" on transparency standards on the issue.

The National Union of Journalists sought a breakdown of pay by gender in the widely used format in March 2021 from RTÉ management, but was told that RTÉ did not compile that information.

Ms Forbes denied that RTÉ had made a “choice” on the matter and said the broadcaster would “absolutely” be complying with the provisions of the Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021 – which was signed into law last July but has not yet been commenced – when it is obliged to do so.

“We’re working towards it,” she said, adding that RTÉ was “proactive” in monitoring its recruitment to maintain a 50:50 gender balance in the numbers of people it employs.

Pay grade review

The forthcoming regulations will require larger employers – initially only those with 250 or more employees – to publish the mean and median hourly and bonus remuneration for male and female employees, both full-time and part-time.

Where there is a gender pay gap, organisations will be asked to explain why that is and what measures they are taking to reduce it.

Meanwhile, RTÉ has hired consultants Willis Towers Watson to review its complex pay grading structure, which comprises 164 different pay grades and is "no longer an appropriate fit for the organisation as it currently operates", according to the broadcaster.

This review is likely to be completed in September, Ms Forbes said.

Although the presence of a gender pay gap can point to an undervaluing of work done by women and a relative lack of promotion opportunities, it does not necessarily mean that women are not being paid the same as men for the same work.

That is unequal pay, which has been illegal in the State since 1975.

PRSI investigation

The fallout from law firm Eversheds Sutherland’s 2018 finding of “inconsistencies” in RTÉ hiring practices also continues.

The Eversheds study of some 433 contractors found that 106 people had “attributes akin to employment” and a further 51 contractors had “attributes akin to both employment and self-employment”. RTÉ later offered permanent contracts to 82 people, with 79 accepting.

But the broadcaster had to make a settlement of €1.2 million to the Revenue Commissioners last year in respect of related liabilities, while the employment records of more than 500 current and former RTÉ contractors are now under investigation by the Scope unit of the Department of Social Protection for potential PRSI classification issues.

RTÉ chief financial officer Richard Collins told the PAC it was not possible to estimate RTÉ’s liabilities ahead of the completion of the Scope investigation, which is not expected until at least 2023.

“Because of the nature of this investigation, it is complex and we don’t really know where it’s going to go at the end of the day,” he said.

“It’s difficult to make a very specific provision. We are carrying general provisions, but in terms of making them specific and linking them to individuals, that is impossible at the moment.”

RTÉ has €30 million cash in hand, Mr Collins said, with €20 million of this committed to various projects: “I would say €10 million is uncommitted.”