Still No Sign of Gender Pay Gap Reporting in Northern Ireland

July 24, 2019

As the second round of gender pay gap reports have now been published in Great Britain there is still no sign of the legislation coming into force in Northern Ireland. This article will explain what gender pay gap reporting is and why it is not yet in force in Northern Ireland.

What is Gender Pay Gap Reporting?

Since 2017 all organisations in England, Scotland and Wales with 250 or more employees have had to publish and report specific figures about their gender pay gap. This means that relevant employers must publish:

• Their overall gender pay gap figures for relevant employees (calculated using mean and median average hourly pay);
• The proportion of men and women in each of the four pay bands (quartiles) based on the employer’s overall pay range;
• Information on the employer’s gender bonus gap i.e. the difference between men and women’s mean and median bonus pay over a 12 month period; and
• The proportion of male and female employees who received a bonus in the same 12 month period.

These figures are analysed by relevant organisations on 5th April in each year and the gender pay gap report must be filed within 12 months and thereafter on an annual basis. This information is publically available and failure to comply can lead to fines as well as reputational damage.

What is the Situation in Northern Ireland?

The Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 provides for the gender pay gap regulations to be introduced in Northern Ireland but the relevant provisions have still not been brought into force due to the fact that the government in Northern Ireland is not presently functioning.

It is notable that under Section 19 of the 2016 Act the measures to be introduced in Northern Ireland actually go further than those which are in place in Great Britain. This requires a breakdown of the information by ethnicity and disability as well as sex and requires an action plan to eliminate differences.

It is also notable that the figures which are available to date seem to suggest that the gender pay gap may be lower in Northern Ireland than Great Britain with some statisticians suggesting that this is due to the higher proportion of public sector jobs in the workforce when compared with that of Great Britain.

What Developments are on the Horizon?

The results of gender pay gap reporting in Great Britain have confirmed that there is an overall gender pay gap in favour of men. It is hoped that by publishing the data the gender pay gap will be eliminated in the future. However, this is not a quick fix. There has been limited success with shared parental leave and board rooms in FTSE companies continue to be dominated by men. Therefore, additional legislation may be required to eliminate the gender pay gap entirely.

The UK Government has been considering feedback on its recent consultation on ethnicity pay gap reporting and it seems likely that this will be introduced in Great Britain at some point in the future as well.

For now, in Northern Ireland we still await the implementation of the gender pay gap reporting. However, the recent speculation is that direct rule from Westminster could be on the cards. This has been fuelled by the recent bill seeking to legalise same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland and may mean that gender pay gap reporting could be implemented sooner rather than later.

This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Employment Law Team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.

Nathan Campbell, Senior Solicitor, Employment Law Team, Cleaver Fulton Rankin, Solicitors.