Tonight, the Seanad will debate the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2017. If made into law, the Bill would require organisations with more than 50 employees to publish regular wage surveys aimed at measuring their internal Gender Pay Gaps.
In February IMPACT wrote to the Tánaiste seeking the implementation of Gender Pay Gap Reporting. Labour leader Brendan Howlin subsequently asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil whether he would support IMPACT’s call for the new laws. Labour then published their Bill, which IMPACT supported through an online social media campaign. Earlier this month, IMPACT welcomed Government’s commitment, in the National Strategy for Women and GIrls, to the principle of pay gap reporting and called for the measure’s implementation.
A similar law recently came into force in the UK. Writing about that measure, employment partner at law firm Allen & Overy, Sarah Henchoz, wrote in The Guardian that “Gender Pay Gap reporting provisions are likely to do more for pay parity in five years than equal pay legislation has done in 45 years.”
She may well be right, and here’s why:
- Gender Pay Equality Seal of Approval: Knowing an organisation’s gender pay gap statistics will change how people look for work. Imagine you’re a young female graduate scrolling through ads on a jobs website. In a world where pay gap reporting is the law, that jobs website could put a ‘gender pay equality badge’ beside certain employers’ names. Like a blue tick on Twitter, these little seals of approval could help navigate people through the confusing landscape that is the job hunt.
- Competing to Pay You Better: Peer pressure is a powerful force. If firms’ pay gaps are public knowledge, those organisations are incentivised to compete with each other in order to narrow their pay disparities and, thereby, attract and retain the best female talent. Brands trade on their reputations, and will compete on any front to protect and enhance those reputations. If they feel they can set up a stall at the next careers fair right beside a competitor and boast a lower pay gap, they will.
- Knowledge is Power: The internet is replete with articles telling women that they need to get better at negotiating for higher pay. It’s pretty much a cliche at this point to suggest that women are not as confident as men seem to be in pay negotiations. This Bill could help change that. If you’re a woman on her way into a salary negotiation, knowing your employer’s gender pay gap is a really valuable piece of information. It gives you a sense of where on the ladder you’re likely to be.
- Running With the Right Crowd: Being able to see various companies’ pay gaps will help Government make tendering decisions and help firms make choices about who to engage as suppliers. Government and companies would be able to decide not to work with firms whose pay gaps are too large. This creates additional pressure on organisations to reduce their gender pay gaps.
- It’s Achievable: This is a realistic measure. It’s both of benefit to workers and pragmatically achievable for employers. Any firm with more than 50 employees is likely to have some kind of payroll software. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes using even the most basic payroll programmes to calculate a gender pay gap. This isn’t a direct intervention into the mechanism of someone’s company, it’s a ‘nudge’ – a stimulus or a prompt – for companies to engage in self-reflection and to open a dialogue.
- Canary in the Coalmine: The pay gap is a single, simple metric that encapsulates a lot of complexity. Like a canary in a coal mine, publishing it will help companies measure the success (or otherwise) of any other workplace policies around gender. If the headline pay gap figure goes in the right direction, then something is working; if it doesn’t, then it’s not. The overall number will also help companies benchmark themselves against other employers over time.
- Time: The UN predicts that at the current rate it will take 70 years for the pay gap to close. If passed, this Bill would act as a major catalyst in that process.
- Symbolic Gesture: Introducing gender pay gap reporting would represent an important symbolic gesture towards gender equality in Ireland at a time when we really need it. It’s important that our elected officials demonstrate a commitment to the principles of gender equality now more than ever.
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