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Since 2017 all organisations in GB with 250 or more employees have been reporting on Gender Pay Gap, and the results have more or less confirmed what had been suspected; that there was indeed, on average, a gap between the pay of women and men.
More recently, the Republic of Ireland has also introduced similar legislation to require organisations based there to report on the Gender Pay Gap. This first round of reporting will be complete in December 2022.
What is the status for Northern Ireland?
The law in relation to gender pay gap reporting here is set out in section 19 of the Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2016, however, as a result of the collapse of the NI Assembly in 2017, the subsequent publication of the regulations did not happen, and has still not happened.
There was hope that after the recent assembly elections that we may have seen some movement on this important issue but as it stands today, it looks like we could still be waiting. This will leave Northern Ireland as the only territory in the British Isles where organisations are not required to report on these matters.
It is now regarded as good practice however, with or without the legislation, to publish gender pay gap information, and many organisations in Northern Ireland have already been doing this.
There is some evidence that the gender pay gap may actually be lower or perhaps even reversed in Northern Ireland. This may be in part due to the large percentage of people in NI who are employed in the public sector, where remuneration is more structured and transparent. However, to get the full picture and to be able to have the data required to ensure fairness and equality throughout the workforce, I feel we do need to see some legislation enacted.
It is also worth noting that the legislation in Northern Ireland if/when it is enacted, does go further than that in the rest of the UK, also requiring a breakdown of information along lines of ethnicity and disability, and so organisations here should be mindful of and prepared for this. There may be some issues to be aware of here; for example, when it comes to reporting on ethnicity, not all employers will be holding data on this from all of their employees. Now is the time to ensure you have the information to hand when it is required.
I am sure the requirement for publication of Gender Pay Gap information will happen here eventually, so I stress, again, the importance of being prepared for this. If your organisation is not one of those already voluntarily producing gender pay gap information, then perhaps you could consider doing so (we don’t always need to wait for government to tell us to do the right thing).
At the very least, as an organisation you should now be conducting an internal analysis of this data, to see where you stand, allowing you to develop strategies to tackle any issues or to capitalise on any positive news that may be revealed when you do share your findings.