Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019: Second Stage
I thank the Deputies who contributed to the debate. I will consider all views, although I may not agree with all of them.
I stated in my opening comments that this Bill is a very important step. It does not provide a complete solution to the problem of the gender pay gap and Deputy Niamh Smyth is correct in that the gender pay gap arises because of many causes, including women being inadequately represented at the higher levels of organisations and in higher paying occupations, absences from the paid workforce in order to discharge caring roles and gender stereotypes. Gender stereotyping is a problem on which I am focusing in the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020. Such issues are being addressed in that strategy. In the next few weeks I hope to launch the first report of the Balance for Better Business group of senior business leaders looking at measures and targets to improve gender balance on corporate boards. In due course they will consider gender balance among senior management as well.
We looked very closely at the Labour Party Bill and I would have liked to have progressed it. However, the main thesis of the Bill was unamendable in reality and it went on a completely different track to what we wanted. We are where we are with the current Bill and I thank colleagues for supporting it. I met representatives of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, IBEC and Chambers Ireland, etc., and the trade unions and employers are agreed on this phased approach that will affect companies with more than 250 personnel first. We want to get this right and in order to do that we must start with larger employers and get the template right and working correctly. When this is done, we can learn from the process and move to other businesses. If we start with smaller businesses, they may struggle and we could end up with all kinds of issues.
In a time of virtually full employment, other matters come into play with respect to other pressures on employers to find workers and so forth. There are many women out there who want to work and who have much to contribute. We want to support and encourage them in doing that. The previous legislation will help both men and women in this regard. I look forward to Committee and Remaining Stages of the Bill. We hope to get it enacted, with the co-operation of colleagues, as soon as possible.