New laws set to force businesses to reveal gender gaps on pay

Labour Bill accepted by Government would apply to firms with more than 50 employees

Labour senator Ivana Bacik: “Women effectively work for free for one month a year.” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Labour senator Ivana Bacik: “Women effectively work for free for one month a year.” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw


New laws compelling businesses to publish details on what they pay men and women are likely to come into force next year, after the Government accepted a Labour Bill in the Seanad on Wednesday night.

The Bill will require companies with more than 50 employees to reveal details of any gender pay gap among its employees.

Though the Government has indicated that it will offer amendments to the legislation, political sources confirmed last night that it accepts the thrust and principles of the legislation. However, it may seek to amend the size of the company affected to 100 employees.

Once it passes the Dáil and Seanad, the law is likely to come into operation in the first half of next year. Under its provisions companies will be forced to publish details of the gender breakdown of its pay bill, enabling employees to see if a gender pay gap exists at various levels in their organisation.

“Women effectively work for free for one month a year,” Labour senator Ivana Bacik said yesterday, citing statistics which show that women are on average paid 14 per cent less than men for similar roles.

“Part of the problem is we don’t have transparency,” Ms Bacik said. “We don’t know what companies have a real problem with a gender pay disparity. So our Bill seeks to address that problem.

“It would require companies to publish data so we could see for the first time which companies have a gender pay gap and which do not.”

Equality reviews

Ms Bacik said the legislation would allow for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to conduct equality reviews and to require companies to comply with equality action plans.

The Bill is supported by trade unions and women’s groups. It also has the backing in principle of Ibec, the employers’ organisation, though it is likely to favour that the Bill applies only to larger companies.

Ibec initially opposed the measure, but in a submission recently to a Government consultation process on addressing the gender pay gap, the organisation said it agreed mandatory reporting of gender pay disparities should be introduced.

It said the reporting of pay disparities between men and women should be gradually rolled out to smaller businesses, with larger organisations leading the way in the first instance.

“We believe that gender pay gap reporting, if conducted using an appropriate method that takes into account the size and scale of a business, has the potential to offer a real diagnostic tool to highlight the issue,” Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said in the submission.

The public consultation was announced amidst controversy over the low representation of women on a list of the top 10 highest-paid RTÉ presenters published during the summer. At the time it emerged news anchor Bryan Dobson was being paid up to €80,000 more than his colleague Sharon Ní Bheoláin on Six One News for doing the same job.