Pay gap laws must be supported by flexible working and universal, public childcare

Ivana Bacik TD
08 November 2021
  • Women working for free from today with pay gap of 14.4%

With women in effect working for free from today until the end of the year due to Ireland’s gender pay gap of 14.4%, Labour Spokesperson on Equality Ivana Bacik TD, who has campaigned on this issue for many years, has called for strong action from the Government to tackle gender inequality in the workplace.

Deputy Bacik said:

“In July, the Government’s Gender Pay Gap Bill completed its final stage in the Seanad, marking four years since I first brought forward my own legislation on this. While I welcomed the passage of that Act, it was less radical than that which I sought to make law. It will be key now to observe if our new laws are effective at reducing Ireland’s gender pay gap. The pay gap currently stands at 14.4%, which means that women effectively stop getting paid at around 4.00pm every day or from the 9th November to the end of the year. This continued discrimination against women in the workplace must be meaningfully addressed and I hope that the situation will have improved before Equal Pay Day 2022.

“It was a pleasure to join WorkEqual at the launch of their new research on the gender pay gap in Ireland today. Despite the amplification of fringe opinions in the public debate on pay parity, I was encouraged to learn from WorkEqual’s research that there is such strong public support for measures to tackle the pay gap (70% of respondents). Investigating the effect of gender roles and caring duties on women’s participation in the workforce, the study produces strong evidence that caring has a manifest impact on women’s pay.

“In addition to gender pay gap reporting legislation, it is clear that we also need to see increased workplace flexibility and a public childcare scheme; these are essential parts of the package of supports needed to support women at work. The pandemic experience has taught us that providing such flexible working arrangements is possible in many industries in which it would have previously been thought impossible.

“Other measures are also necessary. Labour’s Reproductive Health Related Leave Bill would provide an entitlement to paid leave of up to 20 days for women employees who suffer a miscarriage, and up to 10 days for those seeking reproductive health treatments such as IVF. Aside from the practical supports for employees that this Bill would provide, it would also mark another step towards opening up conversations around reproductive health in Ireland. Traditionally, these experiences are not shared in the workplace and thus they remain hidden; stigma means that reproductive health is not perceived by some as an appropriate topic for watercooler chat. This Bill would go a long way in breaking down this stigma, as well as building more compassionate workplaces. It passed Second Stage earlier this year, and I received a commitment from the Government to bring it back. I am hopeful that this will happen soon as women cannot wait.

“Ireland has made significant strides towards achieving gender equality in the workplace, but there is still some distance to go. Legislation to provide for increased workplace flexibility, a universal public childcare scheme, targeted measures to tackle low pay and union density, strengthened collective bargaining rights, and the introduction of statutory sick pay and reproductive health related leave are all essential components of the package of progressive measures needed to support women – and men – at work. On Equal Pay Day, we restate our commitment to ensuring dignity and equality at work for everyone.”

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