Events of the past fortnight have demonstrated that more disclosure of information is the means towards progress on Ireland’s stubbornly high gender pay gap. Fierce debates over pay gaps at RTÉ and the BBC have demonstrated the power of disclosure on this issue. Comment sections, meanwhile, are laden with pieces supporting legislation that would require large employers to publish their internal data.
This legislation – the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2017 – would, by requiring organisations with 50 or more staff to reveal their average gender pay gap, result in the publication of precisely the kind of hard information the columnists are calling for. The Bill recently passed its second stage with all-party support in the Seanad.
Similar measures were recently introduced in Britain, with the broad support of employers’ organisations. Sarah Henchoz, employment partner at law firm Allen and Overy, said this was “likely to do more for pay parity in five years than equal pay legislation has done in 45.” Irish employers’ groups have claimed that gender pay transparency won’t change anything. The events of the last week or so suggest they are mistaken.
Compulsory reporting of organisations’ gender pay gaps would shine a light on inequity and enable businesses and consumers to take account of the gender pay gap when making decisions about how they spend their money. It would also help decent employers to compete for the best talent in the labour market.
It would certainly encourage businesses to identify the causes of the gender pay gap in their organisations and take measures to address them. In so doing, they would add value to their brands.
Above all, a legal requirement on pay gap reporting would send a strong signal that Ireland doesn’t just care about equal pay, but that we mean to do something decisive about it. At the current rate of action, the United Nations says it will take 70 more years before women’s average pay matches men’s.
That’s far too long.