Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 3 Oct 2018

Vol. 260 No. 6

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Gender Pay Gap Information) Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Stanton. Before we commence, I remind the House that a Senator may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on that amendment. Each amendment must be seconded. There is only one amendment to the Bill, tabled by Senators Gavan, Conway-Walsh, Warfield, Mac Lochlainn, Ó Donnghaile and Devine.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 4, to delete line 22 and substitute the following:

"to a class A fine.

(7) An employer who employs more than 100 staff, and who contravenes the provisions of a scheme made under this section, shall have their company title published by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.".".

This is a decent amendment which strengthens the Bill brought to the House by Labour Party Senators. It draws attention to companies that are at fault in that they pay female employees less than their male counterparts.

Will I have an opportunity to speak to the Bill as a whole?

Assuming the Bill passes, I will probably allow Senators to make some concluding remarks. As the proposer of the amendment, Senator Devine will have the opportunity to reply to the discussion on the amendment. She can reply at the end of the discussion on amendment No. 1, but we cannot proceed until the amendment is seconded.

I second the amendment.

I will speak now and my colleague can come back in later. I commend my colleagues in the Labour Party for bringing forward the Bill which Sinn Féin is very happy to support. Equality of wealth is a key objective for gender parity and it is a relevant issue. We know that more equality benefits the economy. It benefits many families in terms of increases in women's take-home pay. In 1918, women were given the vote, but, 100 years later, gender equality has still not been attained. We can never underestimate the size of the task to reverse all history. Patriarchy began when time began and the liberation of women means digging up the roots of human culture and nothing less. Each generation witnessed a wave of brave women stepping up another rung on the ladder and each generation has to do it again until all sexism becomes bizarre ancient history to our great grandchildren. A suite of measures needs to be introduced to cancel the motherhood penalty and the penalty for being a working mother, including improved shared parental leave, affordable childcare and flexible work practices.

Sinn Féin is in favour of making public the names of companies that do not comply with the legislation and the amendment provides for this. The people who engage with these companies, both customers and employees, should have access to this information. They should be aware of the fact that they are giving their business to, or working for, a company that is failing to comply with the law. That is why we propose that any company employing more than 100 staff that contravenes the provisions of this Act should have its company title published.

Sinn Féin welcomes and will support the Bill. We believe our amendment will bring greater transparency in the context of gender pay equality.

I welcome the Minister of State. I also welcome the opportunity to debate this important Bill. I am grateful to all colleagues for supporting it through Second and Committee Stages. The Bill was passed on Second Stage in the Seanad with full support from all parties on 24 May 2017. It was then passed on Committee Stage on 25 October 2017. The Bill requires employers to publish information demonstrating any gap based on gender in their organisation. It is based on legislation introduced in other EU countries and will require companies with 50 or more employees to report regularly on pay transparency in the workplace.

I have spoken to Senator Gavan and thank him and his Sinn Féin colleagues for engaging with us on the Bill and their support on earlier Stages. I thank them for tabling an amendment on Report Stage, the intention of which is to strengthen the Bill and its import. The "gender pay gap" is the term used to describe the difference between the pay of women and men calculated on the basis of the average difference in gross hourly earnings. In 2013 the European Commission showed that women in the EU earned approximately 16% less per hour than men. In Ireland women earn approximately 14% less than men, a figure which equates to women in full-time employment working for free for about one month in every year. Our legislation which is a pay transparency Bill aims to tackle this ongoing gender inequality head on. We have had equal pay legislation on the Statute Book for more than 40 years. That legislation tackles the somewhat different issue of pay discrimination between individual men and women in the workplace, but it has not addressed the ongoing macro-issue of the gender pay gap. Many more actions are needed to tackle the gender pay gap.

I thank the Sinn Féin Senators for raising the issue of publicity about companies that breach any provision of the Bill. Our Bill requires the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC, to collect the data and take action against companies that do not comply with measures aimed at addressing any gender pay gap. Of course, as the Minister of State will be aware, we are doing this to build on the existing powers of the commission. However, we are mindful of the fact that the Government indicated previously its intention to propose amendments to the Bill and we indicated that we would be willing to accept amendments. It is unfortunate that the Government has not done so but, instead, has stated it will introduce its own legislation to tackle the gender pay gap because that will delay the introduction of important pay transparency legislation.

By contrast, if this Bill is passed by the House tonight, as I hope and anticipate it will with cross-party support, we would see far speedier introduction of pay transparency legislation than through the Government's own Bill. It has not yet been published, but once it is it will have to go through pre-legislative scrutiny and then all Stages in both Houses. I have called previously on the Minister to take the approach of amending our Bill. Having said all that, I would like to accept the Sinn Féin amendment. I am conscious, however, that I do not want anything to stand in the way of our Bill being passed by the House tonight as the Government previously indicated that it will not oppose it. I have said this to Senator Gavan before and know that he appreciates the point. The Bill was passed on Second and Committee Stages in the Seanad.

Senator Clifford-Lee and her colleagues in Fianna Fáil have been equally supportive of the Bill, as has Sinn Féin and colleagues on the Independent benches. I do not want to jeopardise cross-party support by changing the Bill at this stage. It is our intention, however, if it passes through the Seanad tonight to then introduce it in the Dáil, I hope with cross-party support. The issues Senators Gavan and Devine are raising on publicity for companies that breach the legislation might be addressed at that point. I do not want to accept it now. I hope the Senators appreciate that I am not against it in principle, it is simply that it would be preferable for the Bill to be passed, as is, in the Seanad tonight.

I know that the Minister of State is cognisant of the issues involved, as I have said before. He was Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality when I authored that committee's report on women's participation in politics some years ago. We brought forward gender quota legislation on foot of that report and were mindful in bringing it forward of the obstacles to women's career progression. They clearly contribute to the gender pay gap. We call them the four Cs that apply in every job: old boy culture; cash - women tend to have a lack of cash; access to childcare; and, of course, confidence - women tend to lack confidence compared to their male counterparts. I know that the Minister of State appreciates those obstacles. We pointed to a fifth C in politics, namely, candidate selection procedures, and sought to tackle ot through the gender quota legislation. I see this legislation as very much in keeping with other measures we have introduced over the years to tackle gender inequality. I know that the Government is committed to these measures because there was a commitment to publishing and introducing pay transparency legislation in the 2016 programme for Government. We are anxious, however, to have this done speedily. I also know that the Minister of State appreciates this. We think it could be done more quickly were the Government to accept this Bill without amendment. That is why I say, with regret, I would rather not accept the Sinn Féin amendment and get the Bill through tonight.

To deal specifically with the issue raised, we look at other jurisdictions, as we did in preparing the Bill. There are some measures in other jurisdictions on publicity, naming, etc. Since we debated the Bill last, we have seen companies in Britain publishing data. Where there are gender pay gaps in British companies, it is very much in the public domain. I am thinking of the huge disparity between male and female employees exposed in airlines and the retail sector, for example, in Britain. There is great merit in it. In jurisdictions such as Australia, where gender pay gap legislation has been in place for a long time, companies are named, but they name and fame, as well as name and shame. If we are looking at publicity on company names, we need to be mindful that there are organisations which have been positive and proactive in addressing the gender pay gap and that they should be named and credited. There are equal pay awards for those organisations in Australia where the gender pay gap has been addressed effectively and improvements have been made. That is the sort of measure that might well be included in a final version of the Bill whenever it is finally passed. Again, I am very grateful to all of my colleagues for their support. Regretfully, it is not appropriate to accept the amendment tonight. The principle behind it should be addressed at a later stage.

I thank Senator Bacik. We are all doing our best to get the Bill through the House tonight, but that will be a function of for how long everybody wants to speak. I call Senator Gavan who will be followed by Senators Clifford-Lee, Humphreys and Conway.

I welcome the Minister of State. I again commend Senator Bacik and my Labour Party colleagues on this worthwhile Bill.

I thank the Senator.

Sinn Féin supports the Bill. We will not do anything to jeopardise-----

I ask the Senator to formally second the amendment.

I formally second the amendment proposed by my colleague Senator Devine. We support the Bill fully and will do nothing to jeopardise its passing tonight, as I assured the House earlier. I will say this to the Minister of State. As I think he indicated, he does not intend to oppose the Bill. I hope that is still the case. If it is, I ask him to consider not opposing our amendment either because it is the most moderate of amendments. Section 46 of the existing Bill states an employer which contravenes the provisions of a scheme made under this section is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a class A fine. We support that provision. The difficulty with it is that a class A fine has a value of €5,000. Let us be frank - the head of a large corporation is not going to be too worried about a €5,000 fine. We are not trying to change that.

All we are saying is that, in addition, where a company does not comply with the legislation, by refusing to comply with publishing data, let us ensure its name is published by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. That is it. There is nothing else. The stars will not fall out of the heavens and everything will carry on as before. We are simply asking that the name be published. That is for a simple reason, to which Senator Bacik referred. Publicity is going to be much more powerful in changing the gender pay gap than a fine, as we all recognise. If Senator Bacik's concern about our amendment is just that it might jeopardise the Bill, I ask the Minister of State to reassure her that just as he will not oppose the Bill, he will also not oppose this simple, extremely moderate measure. It only states that if a company refuses to comply, if it refuses to release these data, its name would be published. That is all. We will not be pushing this to a vote because we do not want to jeopardise the Bill. It is a good Bill and it is great to see so much co-operation on it. Equally, however, I can see no reason the Minister of State would oppose the amendment. It is such a small, simple point. I hope we can be reasonable, all of us together, and show politics is working.

I thank Senator Gavan. Before I bring in Senator Clifford-Lee, I would like to welcome some visitors in the Gallery. They are undergraduate students who are doing a thesis on the gender gap - Ms Sinead Devine, Ms Sophie O'Connor and Ms Emma Tyrrell. We all welcome them to the Gallery and they can see this stuff in action. One of them might even have a connection to one of our Members. We can work out who it might be.

I welcome our guests in the Gallery. It is great to have such interest in this issue from an academic point of view. I offer the formal support of Fianna Fáil for the Bill. We have continued to support it and see it as vitally important for women in Ireland today.

We are just discussing amendments at the moment.

That is fine. I urge the Minister of State to accept the Sinn Féin amendment so as not to push it to a vote and allow the passage of the Bill. We cannot wait any longer for the gender pay gap to narrow. There are gender pay gap deniers and we need to confront their denials with hard data. I do not want my daughter to face the gender pay gap, but, equally, I do not want my son to grow up in a country where there is a gender pay gap. All of the data show that when the gender pay gap narrows, society does much better. I urge the Minister of State to accept the amendment, allow the passage of the legislation and also to support it as it passes through the Dáil.

I will make a brief reference to the interesting and insightful presentations in the AV room last July by two UK experts on its legislation. They showed some interesting findings that the principle had worked and given companies the boost they needed to address it. Many people did not even realise what the gender pay gap was and that it was prominently within their organisations. It shows the value of this legislation as one part of the overall fixing of the gender pay gap problem.

Colleagues have referred to other issues such as culture and childcare. We also spoke about the gender quota for political representation. We are taking our seat at the table. We need more women in the workforce, progressing through the workforce and taking their seats at the table in industry, commerce, law, healthcare and other areas. The Bill is, therefore, vitally important, particularly this year as we are celebrating being given the vote 100 years ago.

We need to move forward with it. I know that the Minister of State is committed to it, but introducing his own Bill will only slow things up and push that day further away from us. We cannot wait any longer. We have waited long enough. I urge the Minister of State to accept Sinn Féin's amendment and the Bill.

I acknowledge the cross-party support for the Bill and the hard work and dedication of Senator Bacik in preparing it. I fully support the sentiment behind the amendment, but I ask Sinn Féin not to press it at this stage. There will be more opportunities to tease it out further. The Senator made a very good point about the class A fine of €5,000. I do not have a legal background, but it would go through the District Court. If the defendant is hit with a €5,000 fine at that point, he or she will also have been hit with the publicity of a prosecution therefor. That is the point. It is not the sum of €5,000. If the case goes to the District Court, it will be publicised by the media. I have not taken legal advice on this issue, but Sinn Féin's amendment could be open to challenge unless there is a conviction. However, I am open to correction. I will not refer to the next stage. I will just deal with the amendment. That is my view on it.

I appeal to the Minister of State. A certain amount of energy has been spent in the House to get the Bill to Report Stage. The fastest way to get legislation through would be to amend the Bill in front of the House, let it proceed to the Dáil and accept amendments there. Let us work in a co-operative fashion to get this legislation on the Statute Book before Christmas. I think that is fully achievable. The Minister of State has done a certain amount of work on the issue also. The Labour Party acknowledges his support, but we want to get this legislation on the Statute Book as quickly as possible.

I ask Sinn Féin not to press its amendment. Let us look at it again and investigate it before the next Stage. We have a commitment from my party that our members will use their time in the Dáil to bring forward this Bill. It has been talked about for too long. I remember the pressure to get pay equality measures over the line in 1999 during the tenure of the then Deputy Proinsias De Rossa. I feel the same now. There is a window during which we can get this Bill over the line if we all work together. If we work on a cross-party basis in this House and the Dáil and with the Minister of State, this can be achieved. I ask Sinn Féin not to press its amendment.

I commend Senator Bacik on introducing this timely and long-overdue legislation. The fact that it is receiving cross-party support reflects its importance. The people in the Gallery, who are most welcome, are researching this issue at the moment. They will I hope have something positive to say about the Oireachtas in their theses.

To give credit where credit is due, an election is taking place and the Sinn Féin candidate, Liadh Ní Riada, MEP, announced a very interesting and worthwhile initiative. If my memory serves me correctly, she announced a President's award for excellent working conditions and fair pay. If she becomes President, it will be a very good initiative. It should be considered whoever becomes President. We should be able to pride ourselves in this country on the way we treat people. We have not had gender equality in this country's history. The time has come for gender equality. This legislation is an extremely important incremental step towards achieving it.

The amendment is a good one. Fine Gael will not have any problem in accepting it, but it is really up to Senator Bacik because it is her Bill. The name-and-shame principle should be applied. When there are breaches of this nature, the sanction should not just be a fine. Corporations write off fines. The damage being named and shamed could do would be far greater than a €5,000 fine. We need to use the carrot, although it should not be required. When it is not honoured, the stick should be used in every way. The public has a right to know what companies are doing in this area.

Progress has been made in other countries. Some progress has been made in this country but not nearly enough. It is a very well thought out amendment and that is what this House is for. As legislators, we are here to come up with amendments that will improve and strengthen legislation. The people drafting legislation are so consumed with the big body of work involved in drafting that something like the proposed amendment is more readily identified by people who observe, politically proof and test legislation. That is the nature of this Stage. It is designed to improve legislation. The thinking and motivation behind what the amendment is trying to achieve are certainly things we all share.

I thank the Minister of State and his officials for being here and working with this House to try to get this legislation to the next Stage.

We are dealing with the amendment.

I also congratulate my colleague, Senator Bacik, on her hard work in that regard. We all know in this House that Private Members' time is fairly precious. When one has it, one wants to make sure one has a topic or legislation which is very important. That is why we have chosen this one. We believe we have an opportunity to gain cross-party support for this measure to take it to the next Stage. The year we are in has been referenced in regard to gender equality, with the 100th anniversary of some women being given the franchise and this year's referendum. There are very deep gender equality issues in our society which are still unresolved. We separate children at primary school level on the basis of gender. We are almost unique in that regard. We separate children at secondary school level by gender. That is disproportionately prevalent in Ireland, more so than in any European country. One third of secondary schools are gender-specific, which is very unusual.

Women are under-represented in politics and the media and on executive boards. There are other countries that take steps in that regard. It is not just Ireland, which insists on gender equality on State boards. Germany has passed legislation to ensure gender equality on commercial corporate boards. The measures we are taking are achievable and attainable and ones everybody in the House should support. I absolutely concur with my colleagues that there is a window of opportunity. In a place where we can be very divisive and spot opportunities to have a go at each other, there is an opportunity to move this legislation to the next Stage and have it passed in the Seanad and possibly by the Oireachtas by Christmas. That would put this House and the Oireachtas in general in a good light considering what is happening in the current year. I ask Members across the floor to take the goodwill that is evident from all parties and the Government and move collectively to take this Bill to the next Stage and have it passed. We should apply the same spirit to the amendment.

A huge amount of work has been put into this legislation. There has been research and the researchers have been referenced. I refer to the phrase Hillary Clinton has often used: "You cannot be what you cannot see." If women or members of a minority faith, ethnicity or sexual orientation do not see themselves in positions of power and influence, they cannot aspire to being in them. That is purely what we are trying to achieve on pay, which is basic and fundamental to how people operate in an economy. On that basis, I ask the Minister of State to facilitate what we are trying to achieve and ask all parties to do the same.

As everyone else has, apparently.

I noticed that.

Not looking at anyone in particular.

I granted a lot of latitude, but those in question are not coming back in.

Will I get a chance to come back in later?

Yes, I will let the Minister of State back in.

The amendment proposes to insert a new subsection (7) into section 32A to provide that a company which employs more than 100 staff and contravenes the provisions of a gender pay gap information scheme shall have its company title published by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. That is basically what is at issue. We do not oppose the amendment.

The Minister of State does not object?

Let me continue.

I should have brought the Minister of State in at the outset.

However, the general scheme of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill contains provisions under which contraventions of gender pay gap reporting regulations would be made public. Head 4 of that Bill would permit the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to apply to the Circuit Court for an order requiring an employer to comply with the regulations. These proceedings would, of course, be in public. Head 6 would allow an employee who claims that his or her employer is not complying with the regulations to bring a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission. It also provides that where decisions of the Labour Court are appealed to that body, the relevant publications of decisions and determinations shall include the names of the parties involved. This goes even further than the previous legislation. The Government proposal contains provisions in respect of publicity, although not in the form envisaged in the amendment. There is not much between us, but we are moving along the same lines.

On what Senator Bacik stated about the Bill being published and then having to go to the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality for pre-legislative scrutiny, in fact, it is at the committee for pre-legislative scrutiny now. We are waiting for the joint committee to come back with its determination. As soon as that happens, the Government will publish its Bill immediately. The only thing that is delaying the Bill is the very serious work that the joint committee has to do in respect of it. I will speak about that more later, if I may.

The only person who can come in at this point, if she so wishes, is Senator Devine.

Given that the Government is not opposing the amendment, I ask the Labour Party and Senator Bacik to support it.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I appreciate the energy and urgency in respect of this concept of the gender pay gap. Senators have alluded to the fact that it is not a simple topic but that matters become quite complex when we start to drill down into them. This is a very important issue which those on all sides are taking seriously. There is no division in the House on the matter. I caution, however, that we should get this right versus getting it done speedily. We have to get it right.

When I spoke on Committee Stage on 25 October 2017, I indicated that the Government was in agreement with the principles behind the Bill but that there were issues with the specific approach proposed. Senator Bacik expressed a willingness to consider an alternative approach in which the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC, would not have had the function of making the scheme for gender pay gap reporting, which would instead be the responsibility of the Government. The way we have done it is that IHREC can make a scheme and has discretion as to whether it will exercise that power. The Government is stating the Minister will make regulations and is required to do so. There is a subtle difference. The IHREC is totally independent and we want to respect that fact also. We are saying the Minister shall make regulations; there are no ifs or buts. The Minister is answerable to the Houses every week via parliamentary questions and so forth.

There are other issues also, but we said we would seriously examine the Bill with a view to bringing forth amendments on Report Stage and we did so. That was very sincere at the time, but when we really went into it in detail and got advice on it from the Office of the Attorney General and others, it was apparent to the Minister and me that the amendments required would be quite extensive and extend to the Long and Short Titles of the Bill. One fundamental difference between the Bill and the approach we propose is that the Private Members' Bill would amend the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, while our proposal in the Gender Pay Gap and Information Bill would mainly amend the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2015. The full extent of the differences between the Bill and the Government's proposed approach can be seen by comparing the general scheme of the Gender Pay Gap and Information Bill with the Bill. That was the advice we received. The principles we have are identical and we all want to achieve the same result at the end of the day. I have welcomed the debate in this House on the occasions I have been here; it has been very useful. We are not opposing the Bill passing through the Seanad. We will present the Gender Pay Gap and Information Bill to the Dáil or the Seanad in due course. As soon as the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality has completed its pre-legislative scrutiny of the heads of the Bill, we will publish it. I do not anticipate that the committee will bring forward any major changes, but it may do so. We have to respect that and wait until the committee has completed its work.

The heads of the Bill were approved by the Government on 26 June 2018 - no time was lost - and were subsequently published on www.genderequality.ie and immediately forwarded to the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality. The committee will conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the general scheme in late November, to which I look forward. Drafting of the Bill is at a very advanced stage and I look forward to its presentation as soon as possible after the pre-legislative scrutiny is completed. The advice we have received is that it would be easier to bring forward a new, more straightforward Bill than to amend this Bill, but the thrust and philosophy behind both are exactly the same. We all wish to achieve the same thing. This is a very interesting, challenging and complex area when we drill down into it. We have done much work and carried out much consultation in this area. All those with whom I have engaged - employers, trade unions, workers and big and small businesses - want to get it right.

The Government is approaching this from the point of view of fame rather than shame and many companies want to be on the right side of it. I thank colleagues for their sincerity and co-operation in dealing with the matter. Prior to Christmas - Senator Humphreys mentioned Christmas on a few occasions; it is getting close - when pre-legislative scrutiny has been completed, I hope to be in a position to bring the Bill before the House in order that we might discuss it in detail.

I thank the Minister of State for clarifying his intentions on the Government's Bill and, as he stated, we are seeking to be constructive. Everybody is in agreement on where we wish to be. We all wish to see pay transparency legislation introduced to tackle the ongoing gender pay gap. However, it has been nearly a year since the Bill before the House was passed on Committee Stage. The Minister of State has clarified that the scheme of the Government's Bill is with the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality and the latter will I hope commence pre-legislative scrutiny in late November, but I still say it would have been speedier to have amended this Bill. There is a record of the Government extensively amending Private Members' Bills in this House. I refer, for example, to the Competition (Amendment) Act 2017 which, following extensive amendment by the Government, was passed by the Houses in the aftermath of collaboration between the Labour Party and officials in the relevant Department. The same could have been done in this instance.

That said, I am grateful to the Minister of State for his engagement on this issue. I met him and his officials during the summer months. At that point, he spoke to me about the proposal to use the Workplace Relations Commission and not to have the IHREC as the body collecting the data. We were in agreement with him on accepting amendments to that effect. I appreciate that the IHREC would have required significant extra resources to be in a position to collect the data. It probably would not have been appropriate, which I accepted, but I still have a slight concern about the scheme as proposed by the Government in terms of enforcement. I expressed that concern to the Minister of State and his officials.

The Minister of State's Bill proposes to amend the employment equality legislation and would not give power of enforcement to the IHREC. Given that the commission has powers to conduct equality reviews and audits under the existing legislation, it would be a missed opportunity not to give it similar powers in respect of gender pay gaps. It seems strange not to give these powers to the commission in this case. It is uncontroversial, of course, as the European Commission and many other bodies are seeking gender pay gap legislation. It is important that this be done. It would have been nice to have had it done in the year of Vótáil 100 and the centenary of women's suffrage, to which Senator Ó Ríordáin referred. It is a pity because it could have been done more swiftly. There has been extensive consultation. The Minister of State's Department engaged in extensive consultation with stakeholders. All of this needs to be said. Having said all of it, if the Minister of State's Bill is introduced before this legislation proceeds through the Dáil, I hope it will be introduced in the Seanad, given that we have had extensive debates on the issue. Many colleagues on both sides of the House-----

There is a lot of expertise here, to be fair.

There is lots of expertise here and we have had many debates on the issue; therefore, it would be appropriate to introduce it here.

I welcome our guests in the Gallery. As they will be well aware, it has been estimated that despite changes in gender equality generally and progressive change for women's rights in Ireland in the past 11 years, the gender pay gap has narrowed by only four percentage points. At current rates, the National Women's Council estimates it will take up to 170 years to close it fully. Clearly, we cannot wait that long. It would have been nice to have addressed it in the centenary year of 2018. I thank colleagues on all sides of the House, in particular my colleagues in the Labour Party, Senators Nash, Ó Ríordáin and Humphreys, for all of their work on this issue. I also thank the Minister of State and his colleagues.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Ar 10.30 maidin amárach.

The Seanad adjourned at 6.15 p.m. until 10.30 a.m on Thursday, 4 October 2018.