Address by Minister of State David Stanton TD
CIPD HR Leaders consultation forum
on Gender Pay Gap Reporting legislation
Wednesday 24 October
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10 mins (1300 Words)
Good morning everyone, and thank you for the kind invitation to be here today.
It’s always good to see a group focus on the issue of the gender pay gap, but particularly so, when it’s a body such as CIPD representing thousands of HR professionals in Ireland.
Throughout the process of developing proposals to tackle the gender pay gap, my Department and I have naturally engaged with a range of stakeholders – academics, employers, unions, representative bodies, Government Departments. Consultation and feedback is key. The more voices and views we hear on this, the better.
However, I am also cognizant of the fact that, when the time comes to implement Gender Pay Gap reporting, many in the audience here today will be the ones tasked by your organisations to do so.
Which makes you not only key stakeholders, but also, key enablers.
I want to acknowledge and thank CIPD Ireland for their long engagement to date with this issue. From the very start of the Public Consultation last year; to the National Symposium on the Gender Pay Gap, at which Mary spoke; to recent discussions only a few weeks ago with my Department – the feedback and views from CIPD have been extremely valuable, precisely because of the constituency they represent.
HR leaders and professionals will play a key role in making all of this happen.
To all of you then, for taking the time to be here today, I’d like to thank you. And compliment you, for engaging with the issue - now, rather than later.
I am however, not surprised. Your counterparts across the water were very early adapters to the United Kingdom’s Gender Pay Gap Reporting mechanisms which came into effect earlier this year. CIPD UK brought out their Gender Pay Report months ahead of the actual deadline. This clearly indicates the genuine interest and commitment in taking positive action to advance gender equality within your sector. And I welcome and thank you for that too.
I’d like to thank Sharon Whitehead of Kerry Group, who will speak later - an organisation already familiar with the UK’s Gender Pay Gap Reporting mechanism. I also want to thank Liz Joyce, from the Central Bank, which continues to demonstrate strong leadership in relation to diversity and inclusion. Both organisations, being committed and early adapters to the principals behind Gender Pay Gap Reporting, have much to offer as exemplars.
Which of course, is why we are all here.
We all know that, over a lifetime, the gender pay gap can reduce women’s pay and pensions significantly. That’s why our Programme for Government made a commitment to take measures to reduce the gender pay gap.
The National Strategy for Women and Girls, 2017-2020, reflects the priorities identified through consultation with members of the public, civil society organisations, employer and employee representatives and others. As expected of course, economic empowerment and the gender pay gap featured strongly in the consultation process as issues of concern.
In response, three actions were included in the Strategy with the stated outcome of reducing the gender pay gap; and in particular, Action 1.23:
“To promote wage transparency by requiring companies of 50 or more employees to complete a wage survey periodically and report the results”.
Last year, Minister Flanagan and I launched a public consultation on measures to tackle the gender pay gap. We received 38 responses from employers, unions, civil society, professional bodies and individuals from varied backgrounds – all of who demonstrated great understanding of the complex factors and nuances underpinning the gender pay gap in Ireland.
The desire for government action relating to pay transparency was something that was raised repeatedly in submissions. Out of 172 individual actions proposed by respondents to address the problem of the gender pay gap – 45, a quarter of the suggested actions - were specifically directed at non-transparency of pay structures.
It was clear then, given the attention, consultations and views by a range of stakeholders in Ireland, that appropriate and considered legislation in the area was both wanted and needed.
The General Scheme of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill was approved by the Cabinet and published online in June of this year and it has been submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality for Pre-Legislative Scrutiny. It is my understanding that scrutiny of the general scheme will take place in late November and, depending on what arises, I would propose to publish the Bill as soon as possible thereafter.
I want to assure you that I remain open to any and all suggestions as regards the General Scheme itself and of course the Bill when it is published.
That’s not a token offer. Once the Bill has been passed and accepted, we will then be developing detailed regulations as to exactly what, where and how reporting is undertaken by employers.
These will not be developed in isolation. I intend to put these out for consultation too.
The Government recognises that it is in everyone’s interests that we develop an effective and appropriate reporting mechanism for Ireland - one that tells us what we want to know, whilst minimising any administrative burdens on employers. The best way to do that is to work together.
This is why we intend introducing it on a phased basis. To larger companies at first, who have greater resources to bring to the table. After lessons learned, experience and direct feedback from those initial companies, it is our intention to then roll out the requirement to report to smaller companies – and eventually, down to those with 50 employees within three years.
The very point of Gender Pay Gap reporting is to encourage employers to engage with the issue as it applies to their particular overall situation. To engage with their own data concerning their own employees, at both a vertical and horizontal level within their organizations.
In order to do that, we need to measure it first.
Collecting and analysing gender pay data, in a standardised and open fashion, will provide easily comparable data. That data will help employers to gauge how they are doing, and where, if anywhere, they can improve.
Remember, no organisation is going to be immune to this. Everyone will have a gender pay gap in some way or another. That’s because there are many complex factors in play, not all of them a result, or a particular fault, of any one employer or sector.
Every organisation will be different. Because every organisation is different.
That is what the Government and I hope to achieve from introducing Gender Pay Gap reporting in Ireland. To help employers explore both the explained and unexplained aspects of Gender Pay differentials.
There is a line I particularly liked in a recent CIPD document on ‘Tackling the Gender Pay Gap’ that Mary, Sharon and Joyce presented to me during our last discussion meeting – and think it’s a good one to end on -
“Moving the dial on the gender pay gap is a journey”.
That’s a great way of looking at it.
Let’s all move the dial together.