International Women’s Day 2021 – Closing the Gap #ChooseToChallenge

Monday 8 March 2021 – International Women’s Day, and just in time for the occasion, the European Commission released a proposal for a directive on pay transparency to ensure equal pay for all. The principle of equal pay for equal work is a founding principle of the EU however the pay gap between men and women across the EU continues at 14%. Transparency is a key component in turning this statistic around but is not the only one. In Ireland we have taken steps to address the transparency element with the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill which was introduced in 2019, designed to provide for a reporting structure however disappointingly this has stalled in recent months.

These strands of hope in creating pay transparency are now also set against a background of the Covid pandemic where reports evidence that women have suffered a disproportionately negative effect as result of Covid. So along with pay transparency we need to consciously make determined efforts to tackle this head on at all levels of policy and business and take this opportunity of crisis to reset the balance.

So what can business leaders and legislators do to drive this forward.

  1. Transparency:

The current intentions at both an EU and national level need to be advanced without further delay.

Pay Transparency Directive: The main issues covered by the proposal are pay transparency measures such as;

  • Measures to publish pay information for job seekers
  • Prohibition on asking job applicants about their previous salary information
  • A right for employees to be informed about the pay levels for workers carrying out the same work
  • Gender Pay Gap reporting for organisations with 250+ employees

The draft directive also proposes a shift in the burden of proof for equal pay claims, whereby employees who can establish that equal pay is not being applied to them will avail of a presumption of discrimination and it will be for the defendant employer to prove there has been no discrimination. The Irish legislation does currently mirror this provision.

Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019: The bill proposes requiring employers with over 250 employees to publish information relating to the remuneration of its employees for the purpose of identifying any differences in rates of remuneration between the genders. At the more recent Debate of the bill before the Dáil, it was accepted that larger companies will have the resources to implement a wage transparency programme, but it may be tougher to implement for smaller companies where individual staff may be capable of being identified. Supports and structures need to be put in place to ensure that this Act does have a meaningful effect once implemented.

  1. Implement Supportive Policies:

Recent times have demonstrated that remote working can and does work however businesses need to take this further and implement full flexible working policies which includes flexible hours, part time work, job share, etc. These policies need to put in place the structures to ensure the continued successes of flexible working. The recently announced Government strategy on Making Remote Work: National Remote Work Strategy” will have a pivotal role to play. A flexible approach to work beyond Covid will help to bring better balance to workplaces going forward.

  1. Recruitment:

Companies have the opportunity to lead by example and start from the beginning by implementing fair and transparent recruitment policies. These policies should actively seek to challenge unconscious bias and address the imbalances. It has been evidenced widely in reports and surveys that diversification at all levels in the workplace drives growth, creativity and business and businesses should be seen to take these opportunities to improve their business.

Now is a time for opportunity, in looking forward to a post pandemic world there has to be hope that with these challenging times comes a time for change and both policy makers and businesses need to seize this chance to make a real and lasting change to our business world.