Employers with more than 250 staff will now have to report on the gender pay gap in their organisation after President Michael D Higgins signed the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill into law earlier this week.
Fórsa and other campaigners have long called for legislation in this area in the belief that it will help narrow the average pay gap between men and women, which currently stands at over 14% in Ireland.
The legislation will initially cover organisations with 250 or more staff, before being extended to organisations with 50 or more employees over time. Companies will also be able to indicate and include the reasons for any gender pay differentials they report.
The bill also addresses enforcement issues by giving expanded powers to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC).
Earlier this year, Eurostat reported Ireland's gender pay gap had fallen from 17.3% to 14.4% in the decade to 2017. That puts it below the EU average of 14.9%.
But women continue to earn less than men on average. This because of factors like gender segregation in the labour market, the fact that women are more likely to work part-time and spend time out of work because of caring responsibilities, and issues around power and influence.
In 2019, the majority of the EU countries also recorded a higher gender pay gap in the private sector than in the public sector.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has sought a formal role for trade unions in compiling gender pay gap data and negotiating action plans to tackle any the gaps that are identified.
Fórsa’s equality officer Ashley Connelly agreed, and said increased challenges from Covid-19 meant that there was never a more important time for employers to address barriers to women's and men's full and equal participation in the workplace. “It’s vital that we all take direct and proactive steps to make this a reality across society,” she said.
The Bill was tabled in 2017 by Senator Ivana Bacik, who was recently elected to the Dáil in the Dublin Bay South by-election. She said the gender pay gap “effectively means women work for free from 9th November each year.”