Gender Pay Gap Legislation – Why Now?

Ireland in recent years have become more focus and considerate when it comes to equality and the gender pay gap.

There’s no doubt that Irish women have more rights today than they had 30 plus years ago, but gender equality in Ireland is still a struggle, especially in employment due to the gender pay gap.

In every single country, including Ireland, women are less likely to be in the workforce, and when they do work; they are commonly working less hours, getting less pay.

What is Gender Pay Gap?

Gender pay gap is the difference between male and female employees average annualised base pay.

So why do we feel the need to do something about it now?

According to a report by Adecco Group, Ireland has ranked 62nd out of 120 countries in the world when it comes to the gender pay gap.

While there are obvious workplace factors at play in these figures, what might surprise is just how much wider the gap is in Ireland than in many other European countries.

Compared with other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, Irish women without a doubt work a lot less.

In Iceland, for example, some 86.2% of women work, while in Sweden the figure is 80.2% and it’s 74.4% in Canada. In Ireland, the figure is as low as 64.1%, and it’s not alone at the bottom of the table with Italy having approximately one in every 2 women working.

Considering these statistics, it shouldn’t shock you that, despite significant progress, women have yet to achieve full equality in the worlds of school, work or business.



Women have definitely made strides in bettering their chances with improved education; however this is not translating into earning power in the working world.

Irish women outperform men in most subjects at the Leaving Certificate level and in professional exams. Yet, they are significantly under represented in many industries such as construction, science, IT.

This trend may be down to the courses and topics that men and women study in colleges/universities; where men tend to sway more to subjects such as engineering, manufacturing, construction and IT, whereas women generally apply for courses within health, business, administration and education.

Are these stereotypes, even as young as high school or secondary school level, affecting the subjects women pick up?

Read our blog: Women in Construction – Barriers & Importance of Gender Inclusiveness

In a CSO report in 2016, women were better educated.  In all, 55% of women aged 25-34 and had a third level qualification, whereas only 43% of men of the exact same age bracket had this level of education.

One thing is for sure, it is definitely not the lack of talent or unwillingness to apply their knowledge that is holding women back when they enter the workforce.

Life expectancy

In 1926, female life expectancy was 57.9 years.  From then and up to 2011, there was a further increase of 24.9 years – or 43.0%.  Life expectancy for women, based on 2010-2012 data, is 82.8 years compared to 78.4 years for men.

Stay at home parent v employment?

According to the 2016 census, 98% of women indicated that they were a stay at home parent. The CSO figures show that the number of men looking after the home has actually doubled in the 10 years leading up to 2016 (increasing from 4,900 to 9,200), however it is nowhere near where it should be.

Closing the gap:

There are so many opinions on the topic of gender equality.  While people are highlighting that improving equality is important, diversity in the workplace should also be considered.

Getting the word out there and showing companies that there is a problem is the first step.

Making them review their corporate structure in terms of equality and review their end of year reports to show how many women and men are employed and if there is a significant gap in salaries, in crucial.

More discussions are needed to ensure that everyone is on the same page and to encourage the change long term and indefinitely.   This will require patience and agreements from all parties, such as the government, the companies and of course the people.

It already seems to be working in other countries in Europe and proving a success, so we want to embrace that success and replicate this into the Irish economy.

Companies putting the steps in place:

In 2006, only 34% of all board members in Ireland where women.

Our Government introduced new Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards in 2014, with a target placed at 40% for all boards in Ireland. Where any board was currently meeting the 40% target, they enhanced their target to 45%.

As of February 2017, women made up 38% of board members, the highest percentage since the target was introduced.

Women are under-represented in senior positions within the financial sector, with less than one in five CEO positions last year, according to reports released by the Central Bank.

In the banking, credit union and asset management sectors there were increases of between 5 and 6% in the proportion of women being offered senior roles last year.

But a drop in the percentage of women being offered senior roles last year in the securities and markets sector which has the largest number of overall applications, means there is no change from 2016 in the headline figure of 22% of senior roles being filled by women.

Bank of Ireland – in 2017 appointed Francesca McDonagh as their new CEO and Ulster Bank – just this year appointed their new CEO Ms Jane Howard; showing that the support behind the new equality legislation.

Ireland has made some progress, but we need to continue to change with the times!!!

Ireland’s current Programme for a Partnership Government includes commitments to reduce the gender pay gap, including plans to force company’s requirement (with more than 250 employees) to publish details of their pay and bonus gaps.

Once this has been fully rolled out it is the intention to reduce the threshold to 150 employees within 2 years and the following year down to as little as 50 employees.

This will require all companies/firms in public and private sectors to detail all discrepancies in hourly pay, commission, bonuses and what pay part-time staff are receiving in an annual report.

Those that do not comply with this legislation will be penalised and could potentially be subject to significant fines.  Part of the legislation will include permissions to the Workplace Relations Commission to conduct on-site inspections to oversee and review compliance or to gather any information they need for their reports.

There are also commitments of increasing investment in childcare.

Introducing talks around this new legislation has enforced companies to review their gender gap as a whole.

The National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020 promotes women’s equality in the workplace and provides a framework to address obstacles to the gender pay gap, precarious employment and any additional barriers which prevent women from achieving their full potential.

The overall goal of the Strategy is to empower women achieve to achieve advancement through the realisation of gender equality in Europe Member States through the implementation of existing Council of Europe standards.

As the OECD has said, gender equality is not just about economic empowerment, it is about fairness and equity.

We all know that having an over all gender balance across all companies will be a long procedure.  More companies going forward need to incorporate the gender gap and equality into their strategy plans, to ensure that over the next 5-10 years and more that it massively improves.

Another benefit of  equality: The OECD has estimated that achieving gender equality would add 0.6 percentage points to the world’s annual GDP growth rate. It has calculated the economic gain for the world at US$12 trillion.

Overall, Ireland have made various progressive steps towards closing the gender pay gap – but they have a long way to go!

Article Written By:
Lisa Russell| Account Manager | Admin & Finance Division

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