Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019: From the Seanad

The Dáil went into Committee to consider amendments from the Seanad.
Seanad amendment No. 1:
Section 1: In page 3, line 17, to delete “Minister for Justice and Equality” and substitute “Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth”.

I am pleased to state that the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill passed all Stages in Seanad Éireann, with Report and Final Stages completed on Monday last. I acknowledge the support it received from the various parties and, in particular, the work Deputy Stanton did when he was Minister of State with responsibility in this regard.

We are here to take note of two Government amendments made in the Seanad that required the Bill to be recommitted to this House. These amendments are purely administrative in nature.

On amendment No. 1, the Bill, as passed by the Dáil, provided in section 1, which outlines the various definitions, that "Minister" means “the Minister for Justice and Equality”. Certain functions of the then Minister for Justice and Equality transferred to my Department in October 2020 under Statutory Instrument No. 436/2020. Given where the Bill stood in October 2020, it does not fall within the scope of that statutory instrument and the definition is not automatically read as "the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth" The purpose of the amendment is to change the definition of "Minister" in section 1 to "the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth".

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 2:
Section 4: In page 10, line 36, to delete “section 85D” and substitute “section 85C”.

This is a purely technical amendment. Section 85C was originally section 85D. With the deletion of the original section 85B, it has become renumbered. Section 85C allows for an employee to make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, of non-compliance with reporting regulations by his or her employer. The director general of the WRC or an adjudication officer will investigate the complaint if satisfied that there is a prima facie case. Subsection 5 provides for an appeal by the complainant or the respondent to the Labour Court within a specified period.

Section 4 inserts a further category of parties into section 88 of the Employment Equality Act 1998. Section 88 of the 1998 Act provides for the form and content of the decision of the director general of the WRC or the termination of the Labour Court. Section 4 intends to include the complainant and the respondent where a decision or determination is made under section 85C in the definition of parties to whom section 88 applies.

The Bill as passed by this House incorrectly referred to section 85D, which, due to the Dáil Report Stage amendment, no longer exists. The purpose of the amendment is to replace section 85D with section 85C.

Seanad amendment agreed to.

I indicated that I might make a brief comment at this point if that is all right.

I acknowledge the significance of this legislation as it passes its final Stage in the Dáil. It will be sent to the President for signature. Pay transparency on its own will not end the pay disparity between men and women but it is an important further step on the road to equality. This Bill will provide transparency and accountability for employees. It will demand of employers real and substantive action to reduce any gender pay disparity that exists in their organisation and help ensure workplaces become more equal.

Most organisations want to be better employers. This legislation can support them in reporting their gender pay gap data, understanding it and, most important, taking measures to address it. Women have taken the lead in demanding equality but the onus cannot just be on individual women to force these changes. The Government has to play a key role in creating a more equal society and economy.

We will continue to support women in the labour market, whether by way of my Department improving the affordability of childcare, extending breastfeeding breaks, increasing parental leave and introducing paid domestic violence leave or by wider moves to create a more flexible work week. After 18 months of working at home, we have a chance to radically reimagine what work looks like and for whom it works. My Department and the Government will continue that work. We have a strong equality agenda, as set out in the programme for Government. We have achieved a significant part of that agenda today by passing the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019. I look forward to bringing more progressive legislation forward in the next Dáil term.

Seanad amendments reported.

Agreement to the Seanad amendments is reported to the House and a message will be sent to Seanad Éireann acquainting it accordingly.