This International Women’s Day, Ministers Flanagan and Stanton announce new measures to promote greater gender equality

 

 

8 March 2019

 

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, T.D. and his colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for Immigration, Equality and Integration, David Stanton, T.D., today secured Cabinet agreement on a host of new measures to promote greater gender equality across a range of areas to coincide with International Women’s Day.

 

Speaking after today’s special Cabinet meeting to mark International Women’s Day, Minister Flanagan announced that Cabinet had agreed the text of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill saying:

 

The Bill delivers on our commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to take measures to reduce the gender pay gap, which currently stands at almost 14% and to promote wage transparency by requiring companies of 50 and more employees to complete a wage survey.  Greater transparency in this area will help us to identify the factors that contribute to the gender pay gap and will incentivise employers to take measures to reduce that gap”.

 

The reporting requirement will apply on a phased basis, beginning with employers of more than 250 employees, then reducing to employers of more than 150 employees and then to employers of more than 50 employees.  It will include both full-time and part-time employees and will extend to bonus payments and benefits-in-kind.

 

Minister Stanton outlined the important steps being taken to address gender imbalances in Board positions, both on State Boards and on Corporate Boards.

 

We need the leadership of State Boards to be gender balanced. They take key decisions about State resources and services.  We have made strong progress and 41.5% of Board members are now women. However, the record is uneven. More than 50% of Boards are not achieving the target. It is no longer acceptable that some sectors are not playing their part or that women are not getting a fair share of the seats at key decision-making tables.

 

“This is why the Government established an Inter-Departmental Group to identify ways to promote better gender balance on all State Boards. The Group’s recommendations are a blueprint for practical change, focusing on making the issue more visible, increasing women’s awareness of vacancies, introducing more robust reporting obligations and improving Board governance. The role of the Working Group is to drive improvements and it has brought forward a number of recommendations, which Government has today approved.

 

“Key actions include increasing the visibility of gender balance on State Boards, changing behaviour, and strengthening governance and reporting mechanisms.

 

The 30% Club also intends to establish a Public Sector Network to promote greater gender balance in the senior leadership of the public sector.”

 

“I briefed Government colleagues today on the progress of our private sector initiative - "Balance for Better Business”.  The independent business group which the Taoiseach launched last July, is reviewing gender balance on corporate boards and in senior management of companies.  We are drawing on best practice in tackling the problems in this area where there is serious underrepresentation of women.”

 

The Government also noted a Progress Report on the first year of the implementation of the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020.  The Strategy provides a framework for the Government’s priorities in relation to the advancement of equality for women and girls over the period to 2020 and is implemented through a whole of Government approach. Minister Stanton chairs the Committee to oversee the implementation of the Strategy. Noting some of the key achievements during the first year of implementation, Minister Stanton said:

 

We have taken measures to enhance protections for victims of gender-based violence, successfully passed the referendum on the Eighth Amendment and provided for two weeks of paid paternity leave for fathers to support a more equal division of caring roles within the family. Equally importantly, equality reporting was also piloted for the first time in the 2018 budgetary cycle. A Mid-Term Review of the Strategy is also underway and we will be consulting with key stakeholders.

 

An important part of the implementation of the Strategy is today’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention (the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence).  Minister Flanagan, who piloted much of the legislation required through the Oireachtas said:

 

It is wonderful to have reached the point where we have formally ratified the Istanbul Convention. The Convention has enabled us to build on our existing legal framework by introducing a suite of new laws to tackle different forms of violence against women, including domestic violence and psychological violence. Ratifying the Convention delivers on a Programme for Government commitment and sends an important message nationally and internationally that Ireland does not tolerate these insidious crimes.”

 

 

Note for Editors

 

A special Cabinet meeting was held this morning to mark International Women’s Day.  The Government considered and approved a number of measures to foster gender equality and to promote greater gender balance across a number of areas.

 

Publication of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill

The Bill provides that companies of 50 and more employees will be required to complete a wage survey.  Greater transparency in this area will help to identify the factors that contribute to the gender pay gap and will incentivise employers to take measures to reduce that gap The reporting requirement will apply on a phased basis, beginning with employers of more than 250 employees, then reducing to employers of more than 150 employees and then to employers of more than 50 employees. It will include both full-time and part-time employees and will extend to bonus payments and benefits-in-kind. An employer will be required to include a narrative setting out the reasons for the gender pay gap in their company and the measures being taken to address that gap. The Bill also provides for a number of enforcement mechanisms including that the employee can make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission.

 

Inter-Departmental Working Group on State Boards

The Government has set a target of 40% female representation on all State Boards.  Last December, the average gender balance across all State Boards stood at 41.5% female and 58.5% male members. However, the percentage of Boards meeting the 40% target was 47.6%.  The Government established an Inter-Departmental Working Group in response. It has made a number of recommendations, which Government has today approved, to promote greater gender balance in this area. Key actions include increasing the visibility of this issue, changing behaviour, and strengthening governance and reporting mechanisms.  The Public Appointments Service constitutes a model of best practice that can be used by Government Departments or by existing Boards to improve the gender balance of Boards currently failing to meet the 40% target.

 

Balance for Better Business initiative

This independent business led initiative was launched by the Taoiseach in July 2018.  The Government has today noted the progress of the group in reviewing the issue of gender balance in corporate boards and in senior management of companies and the intention to establish a Public Sector Network within the 30% Club to promote greater gender balance in the senior leadership of the public sector.

 

Progress Report on the National Strategy for Women and Girls

The National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020 was launched in May 2017.  It includes actions to advance socio-economic equality for women and girls and women’s leadership at all levels, to advance the physical and mental health and wellbeing of women and girls, to ensure their visibility in society, to combat violence against women and to embed gender equality in decision-making.  This first progress report covers the period from May 2017 to July 2018.  A consultation process is also beginning on the mid-term review of the Strategy which will be completed by autumn 2019.

 

ENDS