Cabinet gender pay gap bill may slow progress, claims union

A Government bill on the gender pay gap may actually slow progress in the area, it has been claimed.

The general scheme of a bill, which will require companies with more than 50 staff to publish information on gender pay gaps among its staff, has been published by the Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Equality Minister David Stanton.

However, Fórsa, the second largest union in the country, has hit out at the Government for insisting on publishing its own bill instead of simply amending opposition proposals that have already passed second stage.

Fórsa said the Government’s approach would at best delay the introduction of pay gap reporting “and could risk killing the initiative”.

Labour senator Ivana Bacik, who introduced the initial bill, welcomed the move by the Government to finally approve and publish its own gender pay gap reporting bill.

But she said she was disappointed at the delays to date and the length of time it will take to pass the bill, noting that Labour’s bill passed committee stage a year ago and had been awaiting government amendments.

While she welcomed Cabinet approval of the Government bill, she said in that time, they could have instead prepared amendments to her proposals to ensure the measures became law as soon as possible.

“The reality is that even after today, the bill will not likely be debated in either house before the recess, and won’t become law until at least 2019. Meanwhile, similar proposals have been implemented in other countries and are showing real results.

“Labour’s bill would compel companies to regularly publish wage transparency surveys, subsequently highlighting any gender-based pay discrepancies.

“Despite positive moves towards greater gender equality generally, the rate of change in pay levels has become stagnant — over the past 11 years, the gender pay gap has narrowed by only four percentage points.”

She warned it could take up to 170 years before pay equality is achieved if immediate action is not taken.

However, Mr Flanagan said the Government is committed to tackling gender pay gaps and inequality.

“The gender pay gap has rightly attracted increased attention in recent times both in Ireland and internationally.

“While Ireland compares relatively well with the rest of the EU as regards the size of the gender pay gap — 13.9% compared with an EU 28 figure of 16.7% in 2014 — put simply, we want gender equality in Ireland and we are committed to tackling the gender pay gap. These pay transparency measures are part of a wider package of measures to promote gender equality.”

It’s intended the requirement to publish pay gap details will apply for the first two years to firms with more than 250 employees, then, a year later, it may apply to those with over 150 staff, and a further year later, to those who employ at least 50.

The regulations will apply to the public as well as the private sector. As well as publishing differences in hourly pay, differences in bonus pay, part-time pay and pay of men and women on temporary contracts, the Government bill may also require publication of differences in pay by reference to job classifications.

The general scheme will be submitted to an Oireachtas committee for pre-legislative scrutiny.

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