Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019: Second Stage
Niamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
I am pleased to confirm that Fianna Fáil will support the Bill. In recent decades, interventions aimed at addressing the gender pay gap, including equal pay legislation, a focus on educational outcomes for women and girls and anti-discrimination measures, have impacted upon gender equality. However, the gender pay gap remains stubbornly persistent. According to figures published by EUROSTAT in 2016, across the EU women's gross hourly earnings were 16.2% below those of men and the Irish gender pay gap was 13.9%. The gender pay gap is experienced differently by different groups of women. The gap is worse for older women, women from ethnic minorities and higher earners. According to PwC, the potential long-term economic gains across the OECD from an increase in women in work would boost GDP by almost $6 trillion.
Although equal pay legislation has been on the Statute Book and tackling pay discrimination for more than 40 years, we still have a significant problem regarding the gender pay gap. The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019 will require the phased introduction of pay gap reporting for any employer with more than 50 employees, as the Minister of State outlined. Employers will be required to report the percentage mean and median pay gap for men and women in terms of hourly pay for both full-time and part-time employees, as well as any bonus pay. Employers will also report on the proportion of male and female employees who receive bonuses or benefit-in-kind.
While it is in some way understandable that the pay gap is widest for older employees, worryingly statistics suggest that the gap is now widening for younger women too. In an age where significant strides are being made in other areas of gender equality, it is depressing that this remains the case. It is clear from the lack of progress in this area that the only way the gender pay gap can be addressed is through Government intervention. If companies over a certain size are required to publish information in respect of the gender pay gap, it focuses attention on the issue. Although this is a positive step forward, we also recognise the limitations of this legislation. This type of legislation will not be enough on its own. We must also have measures to increase the number of women in better paid roles and occupations and to improve childcare provision. We must also deal with gender stereotypes and ensure more women are involved in decision making. Fianna Fáil is committed to tackling the gender pay gap through its own measures of establishing an affordable childcare scheme and improving shared parental leave.
If this Bill comes into force, we must ensure that businesses are supported in meeting the increased burden of complying with this requirement.