Ireland’s Gender Pay Gap Reporting Legislation – Temporary Pause for Brexit

by Ailbhe Dennehy, Associate in A&L Goodbody’s specialist Employment Practice Group

Over the course of 2018 Ireland took a number of steps towards introducing mandatory gender pay gap (GPG) reporting into Irish law. However, as detailed in my October 2018 article, there are currently two separate bills on GPG reporting working their way through legislative process: the Government’s Gender Pay Gap (Information) Bill and the separate Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Gender Pay Gap) Information Bill 2017. As of January 2019, it remains uncertain which bill will progress and whether either or both bills will be subject to significant amendments.

While the Minister of State in the Department of Justice and Equality communicated an intention last October that the Government’s GPG bill would be before the Houses prior to Christmas, this did not come to pass and the uncertainty of Brexit has further delayed progress.

So where are we now and when can we expect GPG reporting legislation to be enacted in Ireland?

The Brexit Omnibus Bill
Preparing for Brexit has been confirmed to be the “central feature of the Spring Legislation Programme” according to an Irish Government Press Release on 15 January 2019. Six bills, defined as the “Priority List”, will include: a Brexit omnibus bill (detailed below), legislation in relation to constitutional amendment bills to facilitate referenda on extending the right to vote in Presidential elections to Irish citizens abroad and to change the law in relation to divorce as well as an Electoral Amendment Bill to increase the number of Ireland MEPS and legislation to establish a tribunal to address issues around cervical cancer screening

On 24 January 2019 the Government published the General Scheme of the proposed primary legislative measures required in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit as part of Ireland’s Brexit Contingency Action Plan. The Miscellaneous Provisions (Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019) Bill 2019 (i.e. the Brexit “omnibus” bill) sets our proposed changes to 17 pieces of Irish legislation that will be required to address the post-Brexit landscape.

As of January 2019, no other legislation (apart from the Priority List and a small number of bills that were at an advanced stage pre-Christmas) will be progressed. For now Ireland’s progress in implementing mandatory GPG reporting legislation is on pause.

New GPG legislation across Europe – France and Portugal
While the UK’s mandatory GPG reporting regime has been in place since 2017 and is detailed in my previous articles, other European countries have recently following suit.

In September 2018 France introduced new legislation obliging employers with 50+ employees to annually publish information on GPGs and what measures are being taken by employers to narrow those gaps. The first publication date is 1 March 2019. Significantly, where an employer’s “equal pay rating” is below a specified threshold for three consecutive years, a financial penalty may be triggered.

Portugal has also passed legislation in an effort to address its 17.5% GPG. This legislation, which comes into effect next month, requires employers with 250+ employees to submit an annual assessment of their GPG, an action plan for narrowing that gap going forward and a breakdown of the salaries of their male and female employees. The new legislation exposes employers to penalties for non-compliance and a two year ban on tendering for public contracts.

Conclusion
It is anticipated that the a further legislative programme will be prepared and published by the Government towards the end of March 2019 and there will be better visibility as to the status of the introduction of mandatory GPG reporting in Ireland. I will continue to keep you updated on all developments on GPG reporting in Ireland.

About the author
Ailbhe is an Associate in A&L Goodbody’s specialist Employment Practice Group in Dublin, Ireland. She advises both private and public sector, domestic and international clients in relation to a variety of contentious and non-contentious employment law issues.On the non-contentious side, Ailbhe regularly advises employers on the drafting of contractual documentation and policies, as well as guiding employers through complex employee management issues. Ailbhe frequently provides strategic and practical advice to clients in respect of individual and collective redundancy procedures and employment aspects in the context of corporate restructurings, outsourcings, mergers and acquisitions.On the contentious side, Ailbhe has acted for a range of clients in respect of unfair dismissals, discrimination, personal injuries, and employment-related injunctions and has represented employers before all fora. Ailbhe has also participated in a number of alternative dispute resolution scenarios. Ailbhe has advised and supported clients in crisis situations involving strikes and other industrial action.

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