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Ireland Responds to Worldwide Gender Wage Gap with Legislation

Ireland is expected to implement new legislation that will tackle the country’s gender wage gap. The new legislation is predicted to be even stronger than similar legislation recently enacted in the UK and France.

Senator Ivana Bacik, the leader of Ireland’s Labour Party (a social-democratic political party in the Republic of Ireland backing the bill), has confirmed that many members of the Seanad – the Irish word for Senate – have expressed their support for the proposed legislation.

The new legislation will introduce mandatory gender pay gap reporting – a practice many countries have adopted as of late. The intention is to publicize the issue to avoid any controversy and, more importantly, to force businesses to fairly compensate employees.

The UK’s recent legislation has proven useful. At the beginning of April, businesses in Britain with over 250 employees were required to disclose the wage gap percentage that existed within the organization. More than 10,000 companies, including a few that are based out of Ireland but have a strong presence in England, reported their percentages to the government and, unsurprisingly, the results showed that men are paid more than women in 78 percent of workplaces.

Ireland’s version of the legislation, while similar in concept, is a bit more extreme than Britain’s approach. The Labour Party’s bill will require Irish companies with more than 50 employees to publish the details of any gender pay gap and, on top of that, will issue a fine of up to “€5,000 for companies that do not abide with legislation.”

The Irish government is working to modify the bill in order to speed up its introduction by adding amendments. One amendment proposes data be collected by the State rather than the Human Rights and Equality Commission, as was originally suggested. The government has also been working with the Attorney General to address concerns regarding data protection.

Senator Bacik told The Irish Times that she’s confident that Ireland will enact this legislation before the end of 2018.

“Whether it is my Bill or whether they bring forward an entirely new one remains to be seen but in principle it is accepted that it will happen this year,” Bacik said.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland is hopeful that the strictness of the bill will hold companies accountable for any unequal treatment of the people employed there. As of late, the lobbyists of Ibec, the largest lobbying organization in Ireland, have been collaborating with trade unions and the Department of Justice and Equality to develop a reporting method for companies to utilize that will provide insight into the causes of pay gaps.

“Momentum has stalled somewhat but [there is a] renewed focus on the gender pay gap and its roots in the representation of women in business,”  Dr. Kara McGann, a senior labor market policy executive at Ibec, told The Irish Times. “This offers Ireland an opportunity to work with all stakeholders to move the dial substantially if we are serious about really addressing this problem.”

Featured Image by Christine Roy on Unsplash

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