A Government decision to go back to the drawing board on legislation to compel employers to publish information on their gender pay gap means certain delays, and risks killing the initiative, Fórsa has said.
The union reacted angrily to confirmation that ministers are to draw up their own Bill, rather than amending an opposition Bill, which the Government has so far supported, and which is well advanced in the Oireachtas.
The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2017 was accepted by the Government when it passed its second stage last October. If enacted, it would require medium and large companies to publish details of the difference in the average pay of their male and female staff.
But the Government now intends to introduce an alternative bill, reportedly because it has reservations about the role of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in administering pay gap reporting.
Responding to the development, Fórsa’s Head of Communications Bernard Harbor said reservations about the logistics of reporting, storing and presenting data could easily be addressed through amendments to the Labour bill, which is already well advanced.
“The Government has gone back to square one even though there is broad consensus on this issue across political parties, employers’ bodies, unions and civil society organisations. The move introduces needless delay, which means the legislation will probably not become law before a general election,” he said.
The administration’s move effectively shunts the issue back to the pre-legislation stage. Extensive consultation, which had produced a consensus on the issue, will now start again.
“We had the prospect of reaching the legislative summit by the end of this year. Now we are back in the foothills,” said Harbor.
The three unions that formed Fórsa were at the forefront of the campaign for legislation to compel organisations to publish details of their internal gender pay gap. Employer’s body Ibec was sceptical at first, but was persuaded to support the initiative.
All sides believe such a law could be a spur to action in tackling the gap between the average pay of men and women, which is stubbornly stuck at around 15%.