Two-thirds of Irish employers are worried about how gender pay gap reporting will affect their reputation.
More than a year ago, the UK tabled a motion to bring in legislation that would mean organisations of 250 or more would have to publish data about their gender pay gaps within a year.
At the beginning of April 2018, the first report surfaced and showed that the vast majority of UK companies and public sector bodies pay their male employees more than their female employees. Some of the worst offenders included JP Morgan, Apple and Ryanair.
A number of thought leaders and experts have teased out the various reasons for the gender pay gap across a wide variety of industries and organisations.
With many companies adding a caveat to their less-than-stellar figures, committing themselves to improving the situation, it seems that the legislation will bring about positive change.
With all this in mind, where does that leave Ireland? Well, it’s safe to say that similar legislation will be brought in here as well, especially given that recent events – including the overwhelming decision to repeal the Eighth Amendment – mean that gender equality is on everyone’s mind.
In fact, the Irish Government has stated its intentions to draft the Gender Pay Gap (Wage Transparency) Bill 2018 before the summer recess and it will likely be enacted before the year is out.
However, according to a new survey by Mercer, it seems this is not the best news for many Irish employers.
Worried about reputations
The Mercer 2018 Ireland Gender Pay Gap Snapshot Survey included 67 organisations employing more than 110,000 people in Ireland.
The survey showed that while the vast majority of employers agree with the principle of gender pay gap reporting, many are worried about the ramifications it will have on their businesses.
More than two-thirds of companies surveyed said they would be concerned about the risk to their reputation if they were to report their gender pay gap data. Furthermore, half of those surveyed are worried about the cost of addressing the problem.
With such worries on the minds of Irish employers, and legislation guaranteed to hit them in the next 18 months, it might be assumed that many are already looking into the gender pay gap and examining how they can prepare for the arrival of the bill.
However, the Mercer survey also showed that 70pc of organisations have yet to examine whether any gender pay gap exists within their company, while less than half (45pc) plan to review gender pay gap policies in the next 18 months.
Time to take action
With the benefit of ‘not going first’, Ireland has an opportunity to examine the gender pay gap legislation that was introduced in the UK, as well as the initial report and results earlier this year.
The Gender Pay Gap (Wage Transparency) Bill 2018 is already in motion and while the details have yet to be revealed, it’s no secret what will be expected of companies.
Learning from the UK model, there will likely be plenty of time between when the legislation is brought in and when the first report is expected, as well as this additional time ahead of the legislation itself, for Irish companies to prepare.
So, what can be done? It all starts with the report. Companies need to start with examining their gender pay gap data so they know where they’re starting from.
Next, companies should begin examining the data and look for the reasons why the gaps might be occurring. Examining career progression paths for women employees as well as work policies such as flexible working or maternity leave will help address the roots of the problem.
Finally, benchmarking diversity practices to support the inclusion of all talents will help with hiring and retaining women, ensuring unconscious bias begins to disappear.
No company is perfect and these processes take time. But, when Ireland’s gender pay gap reporting deadline rolls around, Irish employers could be in a much better position in terms of rectifying the problem if action is taken now.