Earlier this year the Central Statistics Office released figures that showed women are paid 14% less than men in Ireland, which is up from 12% in 2014.  Whilst Ireland may not be the worst offender, with other countries such as  Estonia (25.3%) and Czech Republic (21.8%) coming in considerably higher, the fact that the gender pay gap in Ireland has risen in recent years shows that steps need to be taken to tackle this issue.

In early summer it was announced that Ireland would be implementing legislation on mandatory gender pay gap reporting, and this first step saw the Cabinet approving the General Scheme of the Gender Pay Gap (Information) Bill 2018 ( “GB”). In parallel to the GB was the Private Members Bill, namely the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Gender Pay Gap) Information Bill 2017 (“PMB”) which has just recently passed the final stages before the Seanad. So now the question is, which Bill will be put forward before the Dail?

Whilst both Bills deal with gender pay gap reporting, their mechanism is different. For example, the GB proposes bringing in gender pay gap reporting on a phased basis whereby employer’s with 250 or more employees will be required to report on gender pay gap initially, then after 2 years it will include employers with at least 150 employees, and eventually after 3 years it will cover employers with at least 50 employees. The GB provides the Minister will be given power to appoint designated people to monitor compliance of the GB, with enforcement issues being dealt with in the Circuit Court or alternatively employees could bring individual claims before the Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”).

The PMB proposes that all employers with at least 50 employees will be obligated to comply and failure to do so could result in fines of €5,000 on summary conviction. Rather than the Minister having power to govern the gender pay gap reporting scheme, the PMB proposes the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) would set out the form, manner and frequency of reporting for employers.

The Minister of State for the Department of Justice and Equality, has acknowledged the existence of the two Bills and has acknowledged the fact that both Bills ultimately want the same result. However, he noted that one uniform Bill should preferably be presented to the Cabinet, rather than trying to amend the PMB. As such, it is thought that a revised GB should be ready to present before the Houses in early December 2018. When commenting on the current status of the Bills the Minister noted the complexity of the subject matter, and his preference to get the job done right rather than just rushing a Bill through for the pure advantage of speed.

The Minister’s comments and acknowledgement of this complex area is certainly welcomed, and whilst it doesn’t appear the legislation will be implemented at the same speed as initially anticipated, the reason for slowing down the process somewhat appears legitimate and sensible.  Kiera Knightley’s comments are a clear example of the benefits of gender pay gap reporting in ensuring transparency and equality.  Hopefully the effect of gender pay gap reporting in Ireland will also help to encourage women to speak up - we can only hope that women in Ireland will be having similar discussions this time next year!