Breaking Barriers: Irish Business Promoting Gender Equality
This month, we celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th of March. It’s an occasion that is hugely significant globally and provides us with a great opportunity to acknowledge the huge contributions made by women in the social, economic, cultural and political sphere. It’s a great opportunity for Irish HR professionals and Business owners to reflect on diversity and inclusion initiatives in their organisation. It’s also a good time to ensure compliance with the legislative protections and codes of practices regarding gender inclusivity. Organisations that advocate for equality not only strengthen their employee brand, they also promote employee engagement leading to greater business success.
Our team at Adare Human Resource Management wanted to use International Women’s Day to share what is being done in Ireland by Employers and the Government to help create a better-balanced workforce. Also, we consider what more businesses can do to support women in the workplace.
What has the Irish Government done to further gender balance in the workplace?
The answer, thankfully, is actually quite a lot recently! There were a number of legislative measures taken to further gender balance in the workplace and imposing certain minimum standards on business to enforce compliance. We examine some of the more recent employment law updates below that could impact gender balance in Irish workplaces.
Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021
Unfortunately, gender pay gaps persist in Ireland and around the world, and work is still to be done to ensure that women have equal access to economic equity. In 2020, the latest information from Eurostat, measured the gender pay gap in the EU at 13.0 %, Ireland compares favourably, with the most recent official national figures for the gender pay gap in Ireland from 2019 finding a 11.3% gap.
The Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021 was signed into law on July 13, 2021. Initially applicable to larger businesses of 250+ employees, where reporting requirements commenced in 2022, all employers of 50 or more employees can expect to be impacted by the Act over the coming years. Under the Act, organisations are obliged:
• to analyse and publicly report the hourly gender pay gap across a range of metrics between its male and female employees.
• to publish a statement setting out the reasons for the differences (if they exist) and any proposed actions to be taken by the employer to eliminate the gap.
It’s hoped that mandatory Gender Pay Gap reporting will help Employers to identify the drivers behind their individual gender pay gaps and it will also provide transparency for employees on which companies are doing the most to address their gender pay gap.
Irish Corporate Governance (Gender Balance) Bill 2021
While the Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021 helps support the overall gender balance, there is still an issue with senior positions in Irish organisations. According to the Gender Balance in Business Survey 2021 from the Central Statistics Office just 13.4% of CEOs in Ireland are female, up slightly on 2019 when the figure stood at 11.5%.
To help address this issue a new Private Members’ Bill was brought forward in October 2021. The Irish Corporate Governance (Gender Balance) Bill 2021, if enacted, would establish a 40% quota for female representation on company boards. The Bill includes a stipulation that 33% of a company’s board must be women after the first year of its enactment. This quota would then rise to 40% after three years. This Bill has completed Dáil Eireann, Second Stage.
Work-Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022
Work-life balance should not be a choice between a successful career and a fulfilling family life.
The Work-Life Balance Bill proposes that five days of unpaid leave will be available for all family members to support those with medical needs. Carers or parents will also have the right to request flexible or compressed work hours. It is hoped that these provisions will encourage a more equal sharing of family-related leave between men and women. Also, under the Bill, there will be an entitlement for paid breastfeeding breaks as well as paid leave for victims of domestic violence.
Why should Organisations care about gender balance?
In addition to the ethical argument for gender balance, there are additional far-reaching benefits to an equal-opportunity workplace. We know getting the balance right across organisations drives a more successful and cohesive business environment for everybody. It creates better workplaces and better decision-making led by an engaged workforce with opportunities for everyone. To help achieve a more meaningful gender balance in Organisations, practical policies and practices should be put in place to support the intention for real change in this area. There is a need to implement measurable, practical strategies to genuinely shift the scales in favour of a fairer and more transparent gender-balanced landscape, including setting meaningful targets for change and involving both genders to deliver a better balance.
We hope our Improving Gender Equality in the Workplace Guide provides some useful practical advice for your organisation to consider and wish you and your team a very Happy International Women’s Day 2023.
If your organisation needs advice, support or guidance in relation to this or an HR issue, contact Adare Human Resource Management call (01) 561 3594 or email email@example.com.
Adare Human Resource Management is a team of expert-led Employment Law, Industrial Relations and best practice Human Resource Management consultants.