Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Gender Pay Gap Information) Bill 2017: Second Stage [Private Members]

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I thank all parties and Independents for facilitating the passage of all Stages of this Bill through the other House. It is important legislation which has garnered strong support from across all parties. I hope we can see the Bill pass in the Dáil speedily so it can become law and make a difference in our society. The Government has spoken about its support for the core objectives of our legislation. We are open to any amendments the Government or anybody else wishes to table to improve on the work that we have brought forward.

Every country has a gender pay gap and in every case we have looked at, women are paid less than men. There are comprehensive statistics from across the OECD relating to that. That is a fact but does not mean that it is acceptable, much less inevitable. Equal pay for equal work is a basic principle of equality and of human rights. Ireland has made progress on this issue. We had a massive pay gap between men and women which is shown in the statistics from the 1940s through to the 1970s. It has gradually declined since more progressive legislation began to be introduced after we joined the European Economic Community. It is no surprise that when there was a marriage bar in the Civil Service and public service, there was an enormous gender pay gap. That was removed in 1973 and from that time, women's average earnings have increased.

The latest EUROSTAT figures measure Ireland's gender pay gap at 13.9% whereas the OECD has it at 10.6%. There are different ways to precisely measure the gender pay gap. We have to be careful to be accurate about which measuring stick we are using and what the basis of our measurement is. EUROSTAT measures the difference between the average gross hourly earnings of male and female employees as a percentage of male gross earnings. The OECD measures the difference between the median average earnings of men and women relative to median earnings of men. Most people are already lost with those statistics. I will put it as simply as I can. If men are paid €100 on average, women doing the same job are paid €86.89. That is a much clearer and more succinct formulation. It adds up to a very significant difference with implications not only for the lifetime of work but for pension purposes in retirement as well as income throughout a person's working life.

The Acting Cathaoirleach will be glad to know I do not intend to discuss the ins and outs of the statistics but I want to focus on the substantive issue. It is clear that there is still a gender pay gap which is real and manifest in our society and country. On average, women are paid significantly less than men. It is positive that Ireland is doing better than many countries. It is better than the EU average and the OECD average but that is not a reason to be complacent. A number of countries are doing much better than us, such as Belgium, Italy and Romania. We see from statistics that gender pay equality is greater among younger employees which probably does not come as a major shock or surprise. I am glad to say that gender pay equality is higher in the public sector than in the private sector. The worst gender pay inequality is in financial services and the insurance industry.

There are a number of explanations for the gender pay gap. Women and men play different roles throughout their lives with regard to rearing a family. That is the normal reason given. Women take time out for parenting and that often reduces women's earnings, more often than men's. There is a difference in the professions that men and women are prevalent in. More women are in healthcare and teaching, with fewer in engineering and finance. There are unanswered questions too. We do not know enough about gender pay differences in this economy. We do not know, though we might suspect, that bonus payments to men, not least in those male-dominated professions and financial services, are greater than those received by women. We want to know the truth and that is at the heart of this legislation. We want to improve information about gender pay inequality so we can better understand and address the reasons for it, that would permit us, where necessary, to take remedial action to eliminate gender inequality. We want to increase transparency about gender pay inequality throughout the economy. That will raise public awareness on this very real, important equality issue and create pressure in society for enterprises to improve their own performance. We do not have to look beyond, for example, the national broadcaster here or the BBC in Britain. We had transparency and people were aghast to find women working side by side with colleagues, doing the same job and suddenly finding that there were manifest differences in the rates of pay for no explainable reason at all.

Unequal pay for women is clearly an issue of equality and human rights, as I have said. That is why we envisage a central role for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in our legislation. We propose that it draws up a scheme for employers to publish their rates of pay by gender. This will apply to medium and large employers which employ 50 or more workers. A requirement will not be placed on the vast majority of small enterprises to comply with this legislation although we would welcome and encourage their voluntary compliance and best practice to have this sort of reporting across the economy. In the Bill, we have specified the types of employer and employee affected by the proposed scheme alongside some minimum requirements on the type of information that we will require to be published. This will include the difference between the average hourly rate of pay of male employees and female employees using both the arithmetic average and the median, or middle value, average. Publication will also have to include bonus pay and refer to part-time versus full-time workers. With regard to enforcement, we envisage fines for companies that do not meet their obligations under the legislation. Additionally, larger employers with more than 100 workers which do not meet their obligations would have the name of their company published by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

This is not complex legislation. It is not an onerous demand on employers. There is a lot of evidence that our graduates are keenly aware of equality issues and the disparity in pay. Many enterprises will put their equality and diversity policies front and centre to attract the best employees of whatever gender.

This is a positive progressive direction in which our society is moving and our legislation is designed to nudge those employers who are laggards in this regard on the path to putting their house in order.

Our society offers our children and young people great opportunities. Women and men are entering into professions that did not even exist ten or 15 years ago. Women are excelling in science, engineering and technology in our universities and in the workplace. Women are active in every sector of our economy, although not in equal numbers to men in every sector. However, gender inequalities persist. Our legislation comes down to basic questions. Would parents want their sons and daughters to have access to any job available to the opposite gender? Would they want them to have the same rates of pay and access to the same bonuses as any other man or woman doing the same work of the same value? Would they want them to have the same career expectations in terms of promotion and advancement? The Labour Party has no doubt the answer to all these questions throughout Ireland will be a resounding "Yes". This is why it is important that the Bill becomes law at the first opportunity, to advance these important principles that I believe are shared throughout the House. I ask colleagues to support the Bill.

I also ask colleagues to support the Bill. There are approximately 140 Private Members Bills before this Chamber and I am not sure of the number in the Seanad. Overall if we add the two together there are probably about 200 Bills. This Bill is way ahead of other Bills as it has gone through one House of the Oireachtas already and is now being debated on Second Stage here. I urge the Minister of State to help us bring it to fruition.

The Government has spoken about doing its own thing on gender pay but this is an opportunity to make it happen quickly. It certainly cannot come quickly enough for the women in the workforce who are not being paid in accordance with equality. It is a fundamental equality issue for women in particular. The concept of equal pay for equal work goes right back and I campaigned on it in the 1970s and 1980s.

It was one of the issues that made me a feminist. One could not possibly live in a society where one did not get equal pay for equal work and not try to fight it. It was part of Article 141 of the European Community treaty.

We are now at a stage where we know there is still a big gap in the mean and median hourly rates between males and females. This is throughout the European Union, as Deputy Howlin has said. More recently, the European Union has come out with specific recommendations. In November 2017, the European Commission adopted an action plan to address the gender pay gap. This includes a number of measures to be implemented in 2018 and 2019 that are focused on eight different areas. These include improving the application of the equal pay principle, combatting segregation in occupations in sectors, breaking the ceiling with initiatives to combat vertical segregation, tackling the care penalty, better valorising women's skills, efforts and responsibilities and unveiling inequalities and stereotypes. The other two, which are particularly pertinent to our Bill, are alerting and informing about the gender pay gap and enhancing partnerships to tackle the gender pay gap. Clearly, the European Union has already directed European countries to take action in this area and we want to take action.

There are a number of models and our Bill is closely modelled on the UK one. Iceland has a different approach, which is more punitive, and Germany has a different approach again. The main point of what we want to achieve is to have transparency so women know what is going on in their company. As Deputy Howlin said, this can be an impetus for companies to do better.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission can take action through its existing powers. In effect, the Bill is in the context of an existing statutory regime that enables the commission to acquire information, assess compliance with employment equality law and direct steps to be taken by employers where it finds institutional inequalities. While the Bill is primarily about information it can lead to further action to deal with the issues. This is important and we have put the Bill in the context of the commission because of the role it plays.

I know there are other views on how we might do this and, as Deputy Howlin said, we are open to any amendments the Government or others wish to propose but we want to see this happen. As well as addressing the median and mean pay gap between men and women, we also want the Bill to address issues on bonuses. Often the advantage that male employees have, particularly at upper echelons, is the bonuses they get so we have included bonuses. We have also included part-time work in the scheme. The scheme also requires the breakdown of information by reference to the full-time or part-time status of employees and by reference to their age. In many cases, women work part time.

In some ways it is not covered under our legislation but it is statistically true that women tend to be in lower paid employment in general. Areas such as childcare are predominantly female and are atrociously badly paid considering the work childcare workers do and the significantly high qualifications most of them have. Care generally is not well paid. There are also the hospitality, retail and cleaning sectors, to which I particularly point with regard to women. Unfortunately, because cleaning is often contracted it might not even be captured by a company's overall employment and pay status in terms of men and women. This is something we really need to tackle. There are a number of elements to the fact women in society do not have the same pay status as men. There is also the point made by Deputy Howlin on the positions women go into. As the workforce is changing this is also changing and it is to be welcomed. Statistics show that only approximately 19% of senior roles are held by women. It is slightly better in the State sector. All parties here are conscious of the importance of having gender balance on State boards. More recently, we have seen academic imbalance highlighted and people have pointed to these issues in the arts, entertainment and communications sectors.

These are all very important issues in the equality agenda. Many years ago we got equal pay for equal work but we do not have equality. Very often, women's childbirth role and the fact they take time out, particularly after childbirth, mean that in many cases there is an unconscious bias against women in the workplace, particularly women of childbearing age. Employers are wary of time that will be taken off. This needs to be addressed because it is a role that cannot be avoided if we are to have a next generation. It must be included in the culture of the workplace. What we want to achieve here, as well as having very specific pieces of information put into the public arena to change behaviour and, perhaps, force changed behaviour through the commission, is to change culture. It is good for any workplace to have this type of gender balance. It is not good for any sector of employment to be predominantly male or predominantly female. I hope we will achieve this type of change in society.

One of the statistics that comes out of the figures we have, and Ireland is at approximately 14%, is that women effectively work for free for one month a year, if we compare it with the average pay of men. Nobody can stand over this. There are reasons some countries have a much better achievement. In many cases it is because they have legislation of one type or another and because they have already implemented legislation such as the Bill that has changed behaviour. We specifically refer to larger companies that have 50 or more employees. The Government may have a view as to this figure.

We believe it is the appropriate figure, and we are supported by many organisations in that belief. If that information is in the public arena, it will force change. It will also mean that women will have access to information they do not have at present. The data show that in many cases women who are applying for employment are offered lower wages because it is expected that they might accept them in a way that perhaps a man would not. We want to tackle that and the way we propose to do so is by having information in the public domain to change behaviour.

We urge the Members from other parties to support this legislation. It has reached this House of the Oireachtas and it should not take too long to be passed if it receives the support of other parties.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Gender Pay Gap Information) Bill 2017 which was introduced by the Labour Party in the Seanad and has been passed by that House. The fundamental aim of this Bill, which is to address the gender pay gap, is fully in line with Government policy as expressed in the programme for a partnership Government and in the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020, with which not everybody is familiar. For that reason the Government has chosen not to oppose this Private Members' Bill in either House. We believe the debate is important and worthwhile.

That said, we differ on the mechanism to address the gender pay gap. The Bill predates the publication of the Government's proposals. We took the opportunity to engage with stakeholders, including employer and employee representative groups, in drafting our proposals. In particular, I thank the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, IBEC, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, the National Women’s Council of Ireland and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development for their valuable input. We examined the possibility of bringing forward amendments to this Bill but our legal advice is that such an approach would be excessively cumbersome and that it would be much more straightforward to bring forward a new Bill. Having secured the Government's approval for the heads of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill, we published the legislation on 26 June and invited the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality to submit its views as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process, as we are required to do. Regrettably, we have not yet received the report of the committee. I am anxious to consider any views the committee may have and to endeavour to incorporate them into the Government's proposals. I am also anxious to move forward with the Government's Bill.

The Bill before us proposes to amend the legislation establishing the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC, by assigning to the latter powers to make mandatory gender pay gap information disclosure schemes. Under such schemes, specified categories of employers would be required to compile and publish information relating to differences in the pay of their male and female employees. Schemes would not apply to employers with fewer than 50 employees. Contravention by an employer of the provisions of a scheme would be an offence. I am advised that the latter provision could mean that under Article 17.2 of the Constitution and Standing Order 179 a money message from the Government will be needed before Committee Stage of the Bill can be taken. A decision on whether such a message is needed is a matter for the Ceann Comhairle and the Bills Office.

A pre-emptive strike.

The principle of equal pay for women and men for equal work or work of equal value has been part of Irish law for almost 45 years and is part of everyone's contract of employment. The gender pay gap is somewhat different in that it is the difference between the average gross hourly pay of female and male employees. Not respecting the principle of equal pay is likely to be a contributory factor to the gender pay gap, but there are a number of other causes as well. Among the factors which interact in creating the pay gap a number have an obvious gender dimension. I refer to traditional role models, gender segregation in education and in the labour market, the challenges of balancing work and family life, the difference in participation of men and women in family responsibilities, the availability of quality, affordable childcare facilities and out-of-school hours care and processes within organisations where imbalance needs to be addressed.

To put the situation in Ireland in a broader context, it should be noted that, according to statistics from 2014, Ireland has a gender pay gap below the EU average. It is 13.9% here and 16.7% in the EU. However, our gender pay gap has shown no longer-term tendency to decline and, therefore, must be the focus of specific action. Pay transparency as provided for in this Bill and in the Government's proposals is one such measure and, in recognition of that, the Government does not oppose this Bill. Indeed, the gender pay gap is the subject of a number of actions in the programme for partnership Government. Measures committed to include increasing investment in childcare and reviewing the lower pay of women and gender inequality in senior appointments. To that end we have established a strategy for the private sector called Better Balance for Better Business. It is part of the national strategy for women and girls which was published in 2017. One of the actions in the strategy is to carry out an independent review of corporate boards in Ireland focusing initially on Irish Stock Exchange companies. That will report to the Government in the first quarter of next year. It will also cover gender differences in the senior management of companies, as mentioned by Deputy Jan O'Sullivan earlier.

We are all agreed that it is important to approach this from a number of different angles. Having women in senior management at board level is an incentive and support to other women and girls to move up the line and take up such positions. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan was right to refer to diversity in companies. Many companies are recognising and valuing this now. When there is diversity in companies, it helps everybody. Ultimately, it helps with the bottom line. The companies are happier places in which to work and people are valued for their diverse ways. Many companies are beginning to realise that now but we must help them with that.

The Government is active on all of these issues. The programme states that we will also seek to promote wage transparency by requiring companies with 50 employees and more to complete a wage survey. These commitments are reflected in the actions in the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020. Action 1.22 of the strategy states that we will initiate dialogue between key stakeholders, unions and employers aimed at addressing the gender pay gap, and develop and promote practical information resources to explain and increase understanding of the multifaceted aspects of the gender pay gap and its causes. Practical tools will be developed to assist employers in calculating the gender pay gap within their organisations. Clearly, this is an action which must be addressed before legislation such this Bill or the Bill the Government is preparing comes into effect. Action 1.23 of the strategy pledges to promote wage transparency by requiring companies with 50 or more employees to complete a wage survey periodically and report the results. This is, of course, the subject matter of the Bill before us.

The Government has concerns with the specific approach proposed in the Bill, and I will outline some of these. The Bill provides for the insertion of a new section 32A in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014. Subsection (1) provides for the making of a scheme by IHREC. As set out in the subsection, the exercise of any authority or power to make a scheme would be at the sole discretion of IHREC. There is no provision under which the Minister may require or request IHREC to make a scheme. As such, there is no provision whereby enactment of this legislation is guaranteed to result in the introduction of wage surveys as promised in the programme for a partnership Government. We must bear in mind and respect that the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is independent under the Paris Principles. As subsection (1) is phrased, approval of the Minister is not required for any scheme.

While IHREC has undoubted expertise in this area, it would be appropriate that powers are subject to the control of the Minister, as is the case under section 31 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 whereby codes of practice can be prepared by IHREC for submission to the Minister and the Minister may, by order, approve them. There is no similar mechanism in the Bill so it is very much out of line with the principal Act. In effect, it gives a quasi-legislative power to IHREC with no mechanism for oversight or control. The Bill provides not just for the publication of the overall gender pay gap figure for an employer but for disaggregation of this figure by reference to bonus pay, full-time or part-time status and the ages of employees. In this context, we must bear in mind the data protection aspects and my Department is consulting the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner on the Government's Bill to ensure that it respects the general data protection regulation, GDPR.

As I said, the Government wants to legislate in this area. Our proposals have been with the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality since 5 July last. Our proposals are informed by the debate around this Bill in the Seanad. Indeed, I wish to acknowledge the great work of Senator Bacik on the Bill. She continues to make a significant contribution to advancing gender equality.

Our proposals are also shaped and informed by our consultations with employer and employee stakeholders. The debate in the House this evening will be of considerable value as will the report from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, when we receive it. I hope that Members would appreciate the value of the considered approach taken by Government in respect of this legislation. I look forward to hearing the views of other Members in the House this evening.

I will be sharing my time with some colleagues, and I am pleased to say that I will be sharing the time equally with them. I welcome the Labour Party Bill before the House this evening. Fianna Fáil will be supporting the legislation.

It is important to note that for centuries women in Ireland, and women throughout the world, have been discriminated against. Not only have they been treated as second-class citizens they have been deprived of some of the basic rights that men took for granted for centuries. This year we celebrate the centenary of women getting the vote in 1918, which was a significant event. It is also important to recall that there was significant opposition to that. It was not always the case that the path of women's suffrage and rights for women was supported by the political establishment. Some of the biggest opponents of giving women the right to vote prior to 1918 were members of the Irish Parliamentary Party, and it was not only John Redmond. Sir Edward Carson, as a member of the Irish Unionist Alliance, was also vigorously opposed to giving women the right to vote. Some Irish MPs were different in that they supported universal suffrage but the political establishment prior to 1918 was very much opposed to women getting the vote.

When the Irish Free State was established the marriage bar was introduced in 1932. This prevented women from working in the Civil Service upon marriage. This affected many women, mothers of many of us no doubt, who had to give up their jobs once they married. We only got rid of this measure in 1973. Legislation that was prompted to a large extent by the European Economic Community, as the EU was known, gradually resulted in greater rights being given to women in the workplace. In 1977 the Employment Equality Act was introduced. This important legislation was introduced by another member of the Labour Party, the former Tánaiste, Michael O'Leary, a man who appears to have been airbrushed out of Irish history but who played a significant role in improving the path for the equality of women in the workplace. Fianna Fáil introduced the Employment Equality Act 1998, which ensured that equality on the basis of gender was upheld in the workplace. That was also a significant piece of work and a significant achievement.

Today, unfortunately, we still have not attained full equality for women in the workplace. The statistics reveal that currently there is a gender pay gap. I note the Minister of State's comments on the causes of that, but it is not necessarily the case that the reason for the gender pay gap is that the laws, be they the Employment Equality Acts of 1977 or 1998, are being breached. The fact of the matter is that the pay gap exists and the Oireachtas has to do something in respect of that. We are in the fortunate position where the public sector has led the way for many years in this. There is no suggestion or contemplation that any Member of this House who is man should be paid more than a female Deputy. This also applies throughout the public sector and the Civil Service. The problem appears to lie significantly in the private sector.

This legislation is very useful in trying to deal with a complex problem. One of the first stands that must be made in order to deal with a problem is to disclose the problem. If companies over a certain size are required to publish information in respect of the gender pay gap, then it focuses attention on the issue. Once attention is focused on the issue then we can start to resolve it and it will become a more obvious requirement for companies to ensure they do not have a significant gender pay gap.

The gender pay gap that is being statistically examined in the State is at present around 14%. We also note that the problem appears most significant at the higher end of the workforce. This question really needs to be examined closely, and answered. We should not permit a situation to develop where there is any breach in respect of the amounts that women are paid compared to men at the higher levels or the lower levels.

I will now hand over to my colleague, Deputy O'Loughlin.

I commend the Labour Party on introducing the Bill, and I thank Senator Bacik for all the work she has done on this in the Seanad. I also commend my colleague, Senator Clifford-Lee, and Sonya Lennon of the WorkEqual campaign. They have done a huge piece of work on bringing this issue to the businesses that we need to talk about. There is no point in us talking about this in the Dáil Chamber or our colleagues talking about it in the Seanad Chamber; we need businesses to take it on board, to stop talking about it and to put practical realities into action.

Equal pay for equal work has to be the cornerstone of any just and fair society. While we talk about this I am very conscious of the pay disparity that exists for those workers who started working after a particular year, especially between teachers. That is also absolutely wrong.

One of the most worrying aspects of recent research into the gender pay gap is the fact the gap is now widening for younger women when it absolutely should be narrowing at this stage. Progress is being made in other areas of gender equality but not, it would seem, in terms of pay. This is why Government intervention is essential. The strategies, consultations, reviews and symposiums have not worked. The Government must support this Bill. I am aware that the Minister of State has said the Government will not oppose it, but the Government should be supporting the Bill and not be neutral on it. The Bill is an important step towards pay equality. The Bill proposes legislation that will compel an employer with more than 50 staff to publish information on its employees' pay, a measure that already exists in the UK and Australia. The legislation needs to be supported by improved childcare provision, improved shared parental leave, as proposed in the legislation brought forward by myself and Deputy Lisa Chambers, and by increasing the number of women in better-paid roles and occupations.

The Bill has been described as a diagnostic rather than a curative measure. To solve the problem, however, we first need to gather all the necessary information to assist in public policy formation. This information can then be used by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. Ireland continues to hold a ranking of 25th place on an international league table of overall female economic empowerment. Our latest figures say that the gender pay gap is 13.9%. As Deputy Broughan said, women are working for free for one month in the year. Our boardrooms have an 18% female participation rate compared to 22% in the UK and 34% in France. As usual, the Nordic countries are leading the way. Progress has been excruciatingly slow in addressing the pay gap and the lack of gender diversity on boards. Ireland is one of the worst performers in Europe for gender balance on corporate boards. Half of all State boards are still failing to meet the 45% minimum target set in 2014.

Young Irish women are constantly reading news stories about their favourite actors, musicians and celebrities fighting for equal pay in the worlds of music and film. It is good that people are being upfront and out there about their fight. As their representatives, we have to try to ensure parity of pay for young women here in their own country. Great strides have been made to improve economic independence for women in Ireland in recent decades. Bold and progressive policy changes were needed to achieve this. The same approach should be taken to address the gender pay gap. We would not accept different rates of pay on any other basis. If two people are doing the same job with the same level of experience then they should be on the same salary.

It is deeply disturbing that as women progress in their careers and gain experience, their earning power drops to such a level that they earn 28% less than their male counterparts after 15 years. Shocking research from the UK shows that Ryanair is in the top ten of those with the worst gender pay gap. I am happy to join my colleague, Deputy O'Callaghan, and lead in this area in saying that Fianna Fáil will support the Bill in an effort to progress the glacial pace at which pay equality is proceeding.

I am delighted to speak in support of the Bill. Like colleagues, I pay tribute to the Labour Party for bringing it forward. I also pay tribute Deputies O'Loughlin, Lisa Chambers and O'Callaghan who are doing extraordinarily good work in this regard, particularly in respect of a Bill they brought forward recently. I also commend Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee on her efforts to make improvements in this area.

Although we have had equal pay legislation on the Statute Book for more than 40 years, we still have a significant problem regarding the gender pay gap. The available statistical information has long shown that progression, if it takes place at all, is excruciatingly slow. It is high time that real action was taken and that we resolved this situation once and for all. The most up-to-date statistics from the CSO show that, on average, women are paid 14% less than men. As Deputy O'Loughlin has pointed out, that would correspond to women working one month in the year for free. While it is in some way understandable that the pay gap is widest for older employees, it is worrying that statistics suggest the gap is now widening for younger women too. While we have been making progress in so many areas on gender equality, it is extraordinary to think that this remains the case. It should not be happening. It is clear from the lack of progression in the area that the only way the gender pay gap can be addressed is through Government intervention. While I welcome the comments of the Minister of State this evening, I urge him and the Government to do everything in their power to come to terms with this issue. As my colleague stated, there have been many national strategies, public consultations, reviews and symposia on the pay gap issue. However, there seems to be very little movement at all on getting something concrete done.

Fianna Fáil introduced a Bill in July that would allow the mother of a newborn child to share her maternity benefit entitlements with the child's other parent, if she so wishes. Our party believes this is an important move towards broadening parental choice, promoting gender equality and supporting a healthy work-life balance. It is relatively unusual within Europe that parents cannot share leave. For example, in Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Norway and Germany, there are provisions for parents to share maternity leave allocations. A woman may wish to share her maternity leave with the child's other parent for a variety of reasons. Certain jobs are more amenable to periods of leave. A person at an established company may find it easier to take leave than a self-employed person. Certain women may wish to re-enter the workforce earlier. We believe that this should be for a woman to decide. Parental leave policies that support fathers' involvement are a powerful policy tool to tackle gender inequality.

In the EU, the gender pay gap is shown as a percentage of men's hourly earnings. It does not take into account all of the factors that contribute to the gap such as, for example, differences in education, labour market experience, hours worked, the type of job and many other factors. The Department of Justice and Equality states that the gender pay gap in Ireland was 17.3% in 2007. According to the most recent figures published by EUROSTAT, in 2014 the gender pay gap in Ireland was 13.9% while the gender pay gap across the EU overall was 16.7%. However, a report published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, PwC, in February 2017 indicated that the gender pay gap in Ireland has widened over the last five years.

I am delighted to support the Bill.

I am happy to work with my colleagues in the Labour Party in supporting this Bill. In recent weeks, we have worked together on other legislation in the same vein in order to try to advance women's equality, address the stark inequalities that exist in our society and do our job as legislators in trying to bridge that gap. Where we see failings in legislation, we seek to make changes. That is what this Bill certainly seeks to do.

This is a very practical Bill in that it requires employers with more than 50 employees to publish information about their pay scales in order that we can see if there are any differences in how they pay their male and female employees. It is quite simple information but it would be very effective in making changes. It would also allow the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to create an information disclosure scheme for employers about a gender pay gap if one exists in an organisation. Some organisations will welcome this - those that are doing a good job - while others might not. That level of discomfort is something we need in working towards our goal. These provisions will allow employers to benchmark against their competitors and should act as an incentive to do better, because companies need to do better.

The Bill will also allow prospective employees to look at employers and decide which are best to work for, which actually value equality and which will treat them properly and equally. The fact is that in late 2018, we are looking at a 14% gender pay gap. Women in this country are being paid 14% less than men and the gap is widening. As Deputy Jan O'Sullivan pointed out, this effectively means that from 10 November each year, women stop being paid. That is unacceptable and wrong and there should be a sense of urgency in addressing it. We have to address the underlying reasons that the pay gap exists in the first instance. There are many such reasons. The fact remains that the pay gap is wrong. If employers know they are paying their female employees less, they should be taken to task. They should be forced to publish that information and they should be forced to close the gap completely.

Given that women are still the primary caregivers, are required to take maternity leave and are ones who will have absences from work, it is no surprise that they are discriminated against. A Bill that Deputy O'Loughlin and I published not long ago was not supported by Government but was supported by the Labour Party, Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats, and the Green Party. Basically, the entire Opposition supported the Bill but the Government opposed it. That Bill would have allowed women to share their maternity leave entitlements with their partner if they so chose. The effect would have been twofold. It would have given flexibility to women to get back into the workplace quicker if they wanted. It would also have levelled the playing field in the sense that when people were going for a job the employer might look at the female candidate and the male candidate and think that actually either of them might take maternity or parental leave. That level of discrimination would have lessened. However, the Government decided not to support the Bill.

When listening to the Minister of State's response as to why he is not supporting the Bill, I have to say I think many of us were smirking at the true intention behind why it is not being supported. To say that he has examined the possibility of bringing forward amendments and that it was just too cumbersome suggests it is just inconvenient, and that really the Labour Party beat Fine Gael to it. Is that not the real reason? The Labour Party got there ahead of Fine Gael.

No. We are waiting for the committee.

Fine Gael has published the heads of a Bill-----

-----but the lack of urgency is notable. The Bill from the Labour Party that is before the House today should be supported. Amendments are a normal part of the process of legislating. The same defunct argument was put forward by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, as to why the Shared Maternity Leave and Benefit Bill from Fianna Fáil could not be supported, among other nonsensical arguments. The fact remains that the Bill is here. It is being supported and this notion that the Government can somehow not oppose but not support at the same time just does not make sense. The Government is sitting on the fence. It essentially wants this to be a Fine Gael Bill but it is not, it is a Labour Party Bill. The Labour Party has just beaten Fine Gael to it.

I referred earlier to discomfort, which is the other elephant in the room. Perhaps it is the case that businesses are quite uncomfortable with the thought of publishing this data and perhaps they are lobbying quite hard. Maybe that is part of the reason Fine Gael-----

-----is not moving with a sense of urgency on this.

No. No evidence.

Let us call a spade a spade. By publishing those figures, companies would have to put in black and white what they are paying their male employees and what they are paying their female employees. That might be quite embarrassing for some companies.

I am sure such a requirement would very quickly become an incentive to close the gap.

Let us have a sense of urgency, and get the Bill passed and get these laws on the Statute Book. Let us do our bit to gently encourage companies to close the gap once and for all. The message we need to send to the business community is that equality is a cornerstone of our democracy. We want to live in a just and fair society. Women are not being treated equally and continue to be paid less. Until we do our job as legislators and ensure they can no longer pay women less than men, that gap will persist and widen. Let us all work together in the spirit of equality and advancing women's rights to ensure that pay gap is closed once and for all.

Ba mhaith liom mo chuid ama a roinnt leis na Teachtaí McDonald agus Cullinane.

I commend the Labour Party and in particular Senator Bacik on bringing the Bill through the Seanad and into this House. We are very happy to support the Bill and we hope to see it pass as soon as possible. The fight to ensure pay equality is another step in the battle to ensure equality between women and men. Deputy O'Callaghan made reference to the distance travelled and it includes battles such as the fight to win universal suffrage - the vote essentially - a century ago; the fight against the marriage bar; in very recent times the fight to repeal the eighth amendment that caused so much harm and suffering to women over more than 30 years; and indeed now this fight for equal pay.

It is a relevant issue across the world, perhaps starker in other parts of the world than here. According to the World Economic Forum it would take 217 years to close the economic gender gap globally. However, it is also quite significant in Ireland. With a gap of 13.9% it would take 55 years to close the gender pay gap in this jurisdiction if we were to continue as things are. This is a mechanism that has been introduced in other jurisdictions. Britain has gender pay gap reporting and similar proposals have been implemented in other EU countries and in the United States. Measures similar to the ones proposed are due to be signed off in the North in the coming months. We welcome these moves. They are not a silver bullet, as I am sure the Bill's proposers would agree, and many other issues need to be addressed. It is right to shine a light particularly on those businesses that might be fearful of the Bill's provisions where there is a significant pay difference - inexplicable in many circumstances. It is a way to bring pressure to bear.

I am mystified at the Government's attitude. It is very common to see Government Bills where the Government introduces on Committee or Report Stage practically an entirely new Bill. It is unusual and very positive to see a Private Members' Bill pass through all stages in the Seanad and arrive into the Dáil. That is a sign of the support for it and the consensus not only in here but in society as a whole. The Government should work with that. The framework of the Bill is good enough and I do not know why the Government is starting with another Bill. It should work with this Bill and we should advance it.

I was pleased that a Sinn Féin amendment proposed in the Seanad was accepted. This ensures that where a company does not comply with the legislation by refusing to publish data, the company's title would be published by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. It is positive that that was accepted. Publicity will be as powerful as any fines in this. There is a role for fines, but the focus needs to be on shining a light and putting pressure on those companies that are discriminating.

Many other issues need to be addressed in tackling the gender pay gap. Reporting of this kind will not of itself address the overall gender pay gap. It will not capture large childcare providers which may not have a large gap between male and female employees, but the majority of them are likely to be female and the majority of them are likely to be low paid. Throughout society in low-paid work women predominate. Therefore, we need to take other steps to address that and ensure the playing field is levelled and people have greater flexibility with leave. I commend the Bills introduced by Deputy Lisa Chambers and Senator Clifford-Lee in that regard. Much more needs to be done on that and on the social welfare side as well.

Sinn Féin will support the Bill. There is a good framework here to deal with an issue that is important for society. The Minister of State should work with it rather than try to work in a different direction at the same time.

I also commend Senator Bacik on introducing this important legislation. As my colleague stated, we will support the Bill. Indeed, we share the frustration of the Labour Party with Government foot-dragging on the issue. The gender pay gap is not a new issue. A multitude of research has been undertaken across the EU and in Ireland on the subject. Back in 2002 the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform commissioned Indecon to undertake a study on male-female wage differentials in a number of sectors. So accepted is the fact of the gender pay gap that the EU has an annual European Equal Pay Day to highlight the gap which we all know now stands at just under 14%.

With all this in mind, why on earth is the Government frustrating the introduction of gender pay gap reporting in Ireland? When this legislation was first introduced 17 months ago, the Minister of State with responsibility for equality acknowledged that the Bill echoed current programme for Government commitments. However, despite this, the Government failed to engage and dragged its heels before finally producing its own heads of Bill more than a year later.

In justifying this decision, the Taoiseach told us last week that a new Bill was necessary as changes were needed to the Long Title and Short Title. That is simply not credible, nor is the Minister of State's concern with the new section 32A. His concern seems to be that oversight and initiative are robbed from the Minister and that it falls to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. I am very happy to see such a change. We have waited so long and the political establishment and the Government have been in such a state of splendid inertia on this issue, I am very happy for a commission with responsibility for human rights and equality to set the pace on this. God knows, if we were waiting for the Government we would be waiting a very long time. Irish women and Irish society are no longer prepared to wait.

It is not just about the reporting of gender pay differentials. We need to be honest about this and look at low-paid sectors in our economy. We need to be honest about this and look at cost of living. We need to be honest and say we need to do so much more, including the introduction of a living wage and rent caps. We need market interventions. For today, we support this legislation. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, is a reasonable person and I do not question his good faith on these matters. I appeal to him; for God's sake let us stop the delay. This is good legislation. If he wants to argue for amendments, I think he is concerned unnecessarily.

The Deputy should await the committee report.

I have far more faith in the commission charged with equality and human rights than I would have in many who have graced ministerial office. I appeal to the Minister of State to support the legislation, allow it to proceed and give the women of Ireland some Christmas cheer.

Where is the committee report?

I commend the Labour Party on introducing this Bill. I do not accept the reasons the Minister of State gave for not accepting it. I heard Deputy Lisa Chambers outline the reasons the Government should support the Bill. There are various stages in legislation that enable us to perfect Bills. We have introduced many Bills to improve workers' rights and Fianna Fáil did not support them for exactly the same reason. That party seems to support the softer Bills but not Bills that make a real and tangible difference. While I do not say this Bill does not do that, it simply puts an obligation on employers to publish information.

It is easy to support such Bills but there are more fundamental Bills Fianna Fáil would not support.

According to CSO figures, on average, women are paid 14% less than men. Those figures are based on gross hourly earnings, and that gap has been growing. At the same time, the CSO figures show that more than 55% of all women aged between 25 and 34 years had a third level qualification in 2016 compared with 43% of men in the same age group. Even though it seems that women tend to be more highly educated and qualified than men, that is not translating into earning power.

It is obvious from all the data and the figures which have been presented by the Labour Party spokespeople, my Sinn Féin colleagues and the Fianna Fáil Teachtaí also that there is a problem. Not enough is being done. This Bill would go some way to at least identifying the problem and I do not see why the Minister of State's Government is not in a position to support it.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss this very important issue. The PwC index is very interesting where it shows that the level of inequality - 14% less pay for women than men - is up from the figure in 2014 when it was 12%. It is 18% in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. An interesting comparison is that Iceland has had equal pay for the genders since 1961 - 57 years of neutral pay rates. Interestingly, it is not a member of this great European Union - the great club - that is supposed to have brought women equal pay in the first place, an argument I have often refuted, and the statistics are before us in terms of Ireland, Britain and the rest of Europe.

Self-professed experts often say there is no such thing as a pay gap and that it is a fiction. They argue that differences in pay for the same work is illegal, that we have equal pay legislation across the European Union so how can there be a gender pay gap. The reality is that some employers will brazenly break the law. However, much of that gap is structural because women end up in the jobs and professions that are overwhelmingly female and overwhelmingly undervalued by this society. It is not incidental that happens. It is because of the structured attitude of society to the sort of work women do, such as cleaning, caring, maintenance and hands-on work that is undervalued in comparison to the muscular, more physical sector in which men generally work.

I believe that gap worsened during the years of austerity under the measures the proposers of the Bill brought in. For example, the Labour Party, in government with Fine Gael, enforced legislation on workers' rights, the financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, legislation, of which we are still feeling the impact, where workers in this House and across the public sector, both men and women, earn 10% less than people they work alongside. It is one of the reasons teachers and nurses are threatening strike.

Fianna Fáil did that.

It is also the case that during those austerity years pensions were cut for women. Services like home help and special needs assistance, SNA, were cut, again jobs largely done by women. Their levels and their pay were cut. The legacy of austerity also looms large here. It is good to document these things but they will not go away until we set out to improve our industrial relations machinery, which barely recognises the existing legislation.

I note that the provisions in the Minister of State's proposed Bill argue for personnel from the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, to conduct on-site inspections to ensure compliance on gender information, but there is a problem. We recently attended a committee on bogus self-employment with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty. From questioning the Department we were able to show that when inspectors go on-site to check the statistics on bogus self-employment, they do not actually do it. They do not keep statistics on bogus self-employment. We have industrial relations machinery that is not fit for purpose. It is certainly not fit for purpose in terms of keeping track of inequality that exists between men and women on the one hand and the same workers in the same sectors on the other because of the austerity.

We have had a plethora of strikes recently including Lloyds Pharmacy, Dunnes Stores, Tesco, teachers and nurses, of which the workforce is largely female. Those strikes in the private sector in particular are often based on the lack of a permanent secure job, precarious work, the lack of contracts and issues of inequality. I am glad to say all those strikes took place because the workers were unionised. From that we should learn that as well as producing papers that record inequality in a particular manner, we have to end the impact of austerity and the inequality. However, we also must ensure that in every workplace we do as much as we possibly can to get workers into unions, and get them mobilised through those unions, to achieve their rights.

In April of this year, it was revealed that Ryanair pay women on average 72% less than men in terms of mean hourly pay. That means for every €1 a man earns, a woman earns 28 cent. Ryanair said that eight of the 555 pilots in the UK are women. That is equivalent to 1.4% of all pilots. The inequality is impounded by companies in which unions do not exist. I greatly welcome the unionisation earlier this year of Ryanair and that the company, given those unequal statistics as well as its record, was forced to recognise the trade unions, which hopefully will be able to do something to close that gender pay gap. We all know the reason for that is the nature of the work women largely do in the airline such as ground staff and crew as against the number of women being trained as pilots.

We can safely say the gender pay gap in Ireland is probably the worst in the EU. We should stop eulogising the European Union as some kind of deliverer of rights for women or advances in terms of equality because that is not the case. Where women have fought and won equality in pay and in status in their jobs, which was mentioned by Deputies earlier in terms of fighting for same sex marriage, the repeal of the eighth amendment on abortion rights and proper childcare, that was done by women campaigning both through their unions and outside the gates of this House.

There is a good deal of work to be done, and I welcome a Bill that attempts to begin to document what is required in that work, but there was a level of tongue and cheek in the way the Labour Party approached this issue, given its record when it was recently in government.

Check the facts.

That is a complete falsehood.

I am glad to have the opportunity to talk about this Bill. It is very important because for far too long women have been treated unfairly. The further back we go, the worse it was for women. It is only right that where women are doing the same work as men, they should be paid the same. That inequality has existed for far too long, and I am glad to have the opportunity to support the Labour Party for bringing forward this Bill.

We must recognise that women have played a very important role in all our lives. We would not be here if it were not for women. In the past, women worked inside and outside the home. They kept the home going but were hardly ever remunerated. My grandmother's husband was invalided from early in their marriage.

She had to work outside and do all the work to cut turf for sale. I am so agitated when I hear people suggesting people should not cut turf because I know what she and that generation went through to survive. It must be recognised and made possible that women be paid the same as men. There are many inequalities in our system, even now. Young teachers are not paid the same as teachers used to be or as teachers who work alongside them and were qualified earlier. It is wrong, degrading and frustrating for young teachers who spend five or six years in college but end up working for much less than people who entered the workforce before them.

Likewise, nurses on the front line do vital work. It is no wonder that many of our young graduates emigrate and take up employment in other countries because it is not fair or right that nurses are not remunerated for the hard work they do in caring for sick people to the same degree as the people who entered the workforce before them. They must work so much harder because of all the paperwork, liability and pressure that is put on them. They must work long hours and it is not right that they are not paid the same as the other nurses.

I am sorry to say that the Labour Party played a role in this issue by what it did to women in the home whose pension entitlement was changed. We are only now starting to address that but it was wrong and unfortunate. I met so many women who were not going to receive the same pension and they were so hurt because they felt they had paid their contributions but, as the playing pitch was changed, they would not get the same pension that other women received, and would continue to receive, alongside them. As these women came of pension age in only 2012, they were subject to the new regulation and it hurt them badly. I am glad this matter will start to be addressed in the coming year.

As I said at the outset, women, whether they be wives, daughters or mothers, play such an important part in the running of our country and homes. We must ensure that they are treated the same and that they receive the same remuneration for the same work as men. It is great that the Bill acknowledges the great work that women and girls around the country do on behalf of men and their country. They are as proud of our country as anyone else and they have played such an important role, not least in past times of trouble when they cared for men. Circumstances must change and we must move on and ensure women are treated properly. I am 100% in support of the Bill and I hope it is brought to a conclusion as soon as possible. This situation has gone on for too long and it needs to be corrected.

Debate adjourned.