Businesses should be examining gender balance in their workplace now in advance of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill eventually comes into force, advises Patrick Robertson, managing director of Performance Reward Consulting.
PRC is a boutique reward consultancy focusing on the Irish market, North and South. PRC’s survey of 100 leading organisations across Ireland, employing 133,444 Irish-based staff, showed a rather surprising lack of urgency on workplace gender issues.
While more than 50% of Irish businesses report that the gender pay gap is an issue for their organisation, that still leaves almost 50% not seeing this as an issue. While 41% of organisations are actively planning steps to improve gender pay equality over the next two years, with a further 35% of companies unsure if they will be taking active steps.
According to Eurostat, the gender pay gap in Ireland was found to be 13.9% compared with an EU 28 figure of 16.7% in 2014. Although Ireland appears somewhat ahead of the EU average, the reported gender pay gap is still significant.
“I was surprised by the near half of employers who don’t see this as a major issue for their organisations,” remarked Patrick Robertson, PRC’s managing director. “Despite the statistics showing that Ireland is performing better than the EU average on this issue, my own experience in the Irish market is that there doesn’t tend to be great diversity at senior level.
“When you go in to meet with executives in many companies, in many cases you are meeting with a team of men. There might be a female HR director. A lot of businesses out there really need to wake up to this issue. A lot of businesses are distracted by Brexit right now and they would seem to be overlooking this issue.”
The Government’s National Strategy for Women and Girls includes a range of measures to try to address gender pay issues in the coming years.
In June 2018, the Irish Government published the general scheme of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill currently going through the Dáil. The Bill provides that companies will, in due course, have to publish key information on gender pay within their organisation.
It is planned that this will start with companies of more than 250 employees, moving down to companies of 50+ employees on a phased basis. Transparency and reporting will, therefore, be introduced in Ireland in the near future. Reporting is already in place in the UK for organisations with over 250 employees.
“A lot of companies like to talk of their ‘strong employment brand’ when seeking to attract and retain talent. How they perform on this subject will be a key issue for most companies. Surely it is better to look at it yourself now rather than being forced into it later.”
The PRC survey has particular relevance for businesses in the south. Of the 100 companies participating in the survey, 65% have employees in the Republic of Ireland only, 24% have employees located both North and South of the border and 11% have employees located in Northern Ireland only.
Patrick Robertson advises businesses to review the adverts they have placed to fill vacancies. Do these adverts mention work flexibility?
Do the companies actively promote diversity in the workplace? Outside of the impending regulations, do they see the importance of these issues in the way that many people perceive their company?
“Although there is no overnight fix to this issue, it is important for business leaders to first recognise and identify the issue and then start planning active steps to address it. The first stage in this process is to conduct internal analysis to assess how significant the gap is, and then plan out active steps to help remove it. It is clear that a number of Irish businesses are already starting this process, while others are waiting for legislation to go through before starting.”
PRC advises on appropriate reward strategies to support business plan goals. It also helps companies design performance-based incentives that motivate employees. PRC also aims to tailor their reward solutions to each client’s commercial strategy and unique business environment.
In terms of looking at the issue of gender and pay, the first step for many companies will be to come around to the starting position that there is an issue to address.
“Although it is reassuring to see that many Irish businesses are now planning steps to start identifying and addressing this issue, it is surprising that almost half of Irish organisations do not report it as an issue at this stage,” said Mr Robertson.
“You only have to look at the makeup of the boards and management teams of many organisations around Ireland to notice gender inequality. In addition, the pay levels of female employees in management and executive teams often appear to lag male employees in the same teams.”
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