HSE reports average gender pay gap of 12%

State’s largest employer says difference is due to more men in roles with higher pay such as medical and dental jobs

Women working in the health service earn less on average than their male colleagues, the gender pay gap report of the Health Service Executive (HSE) shows.

The report, based on mean (average) hourly remuneration, shows a difference of 12 per cent. The HSE said this is likely due to “variance in the gender profile across the staff categories, most notably in those that attract higher remuneration”.

“This, combined with a lower percentage of females in those categories compared to the overall rate – for example in medical and dental, is likely contributing to the overall gender pay gap,” it said.

The median gender pay gap is zero, and for those on temporary contracts it stands at -11 per cent. The median hourly wage, which is less affected by extreme values, is calculated by ranking all employees from the highest paid to the lowest paid, and taking the hourly wage of the person in the middle.


The proportion of female doctors and dentists has grown strongly from 38 per cent in 2002 to 51 per cent last year, the report said.

The HSE said the results are also influenced by the fact that almost one-third of a predominantly female workforce is working part-time.

Staff choosing part-time working may be less likely to opt for overtime, it says.

For employees on temporary contracts, the mean gender pay gap widens to 20 per cent. The report says this is related to the number of trainee doctors and Covid-19 “swabbers” on temporary contracts.

The HSE is the largest employer in the State, with 155,227 employees, equivalent to 137,220 whole-time equivalent staff. However, this includes voluntary hospitals and agencies funded by the HSE so the report is based on the earnings of almost 60,000 direct employees.

There are almost 900 staff grades across six categories in the health service, with pay set centrally by the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The HSE points out that it has no autonomy to set pay.

Its workforce is predominantly female, at 78 per cent – this figure ranges from 51 per cent among doctors and dentists to more than 90 per cent for nurses and midwives.

Part-time and other flexible working arrangements are availed of by 26 per cent of staff. Notably, 91 per cent of part-time employees are female.

Since late last year, companies with more than 250 employees have been required to publish their gender pay gap, which refers to the difference in average hourly wages between men and women.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.