The long-awaited Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021 (“the 2021 Act”) was signed into law in mid-July 2021. The 2021 Act is expected to commence later this year with the reporting process beginning in early 2022.
It is expected that Regulations will issued very shortly by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth which will set out specific details of the reporting requirements including the form, frequency and manner in which information is to be published.
Employers with more than 250 employees will be the first employers required to analyse, explain and publish certain information on pay differences between male and female employees and information on any measures taken (or proposed to be taken) to eliminate or reduce any such differences.
What is the Gender Pay Gap?
The gender pay gap can be distinguished from the concept of equal pay. Equal pay is about ensuring that male and female employees doing the same (or similar) work are paid equally; gender pay is about measuring the average woman in the organisation against the average man while making no allowances for the fact that they may have completely different jobs.
The gender pay gap is therefore the broader difference between what women in aggregate are paid in an organisation by comparison to men in the same organisation.
What must be reported under the 2021 Act?
We await the issuance of the regulations but by way of summary, the 2021 Act provides for reporting requirements including:
(i) the difference between both the mean and median hourly pay of male and female employees (full-time and part-time);
(ii) the difference between both the mean and median bonus pay of male and female employees; and
(iii) the percentage of male and female employees who received bonuses and benefits in kind.
Employers will also be required to simultaneously publish the reasons for any pay differences identified in the above analysis and explain any measures that they have taken (or propose to take) to eliminate or reduce any such differences.
We understand that a central website will be created, and employers will be required to upload their information onto this.
The Minister has discretion to provide for other reporting requirements in the regulations including:
(i) the classes of employer, employee and pay covered by the regulations;
(ii) how the number of employees and pay is to be calculated; and
(iii) the form, manner and frequency with which the information is to be published. However publication will not be required more than once per annum.
What are the enforcement provisions?
If an employee believes that their employer has failed to comply with the regulations, he/she may make a complaint to the WRC and, if successful, the WRC may order the employer to take a specified course of action to ensure compliance with the regulations. The WRC has no power to award compensation to an employee or impose a fine on an employer.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) can apply to the Circuit Court or High Court for enforcement orders against an employer directing compliance with the obligations under the regulations. Employers who refuse to comply with a court order may be held to be in contempt of court.
IHREC can, on receipt of a request from the Minister, carry out, or invite a particular undertaking, group of undertakings, or the undertakings making up a particular industry or sector, to carry out an equality review or create and implement an equality action plan.
What can employers do to prepare?
In advance of the regulations being published, employers can prepare for gender pay gap reporting. Some companies have already undertaken preliminary preparations and we are of course, happy to assist you. You may wish to consider undertaking some or all of the following steps:
(i) establish a working group of the key stakeholders including perhaps payroll, PR, HR, finance, etc;
(ii) conduct a gender pay gap audit and identify whether any gender pay gap exists;
(iii) determine the reasons for any such pay gaps; and
(iv) before the first reporting date, identify ways to eliminate or reduce those gaps.
Such reduction or elimination is likely to require a long-term strategy involving incremental changes over time aimed at increasing the gender balance. This may include developments in culture, diversity and inclusion, agile/flexible working to increase access to employment. Finally there may be a corresponding budgeting requirement.
We can provide advice and support on your gender pay gap obligations. This article is not intended as legal advice. For specific queries, please liaise with Jenny Martin whose details are set out below:
Jenny Martin, Senior Associate
Mobile: 087 1184 575
Telephone: 01 67 222 33