According to a recent report there was a 14.8% difference in median pay between men and women in Ireland in 2015 – up from 8.3% in 2012. This is a very clear example of discrimination and is something all employers should be aiming to eradicate. Recently, in a case involving Google, the US Labour Department (DoL) has accused the global tech company of ‘extreme’ gender pay discrimination. According to reports in the press, Google continues to deny the accusations and has repeatedly refused to hand over the data regarding its compliance with US equal opportunities law.
In light of the ongoing Google case and the Irish pay gap statistics, I’d like to return to some of the key issues around how employers can combat and overcome the gender pay gap issue while promoting equality and fairness throughout their organisation.
It is of paramount importance that employers strictly adhere to the rules regarding equality in the workplace laid out in the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015. The legislation was created to protect the rights of all workers, and includes a specific section on compulsory equal pay for like work. In the case of Google, despite being legally required to allow the US Labour Department to inspect their records, the company has refused to provide the information, claiming it would be a violation of employees’ privacy.
Obviously valuing employee privacy is hugely important, however companies need to ensure they are forthcoming with legally required equality information in order to avoid potentially costly litigation battles, like the one Google finds itself in at the moment. Furthermore, it’s essential that employers are aware that a claim filed by a member of staff for unfair work practices to the Equality Tribunal can lead to an order for equal pay and up to three years of pay in arrears. Better to comply than to be subject to legal battles which could harm a company’s reputation as much as its finances.
Speaking of reputation, refusing to provide information and statistics on matters of equality in the workplace certainly has the potential to raise eyebrows. A company that gives the impression it has something to hide with regard to equal pay comes across as suspicious and this can negatively impact upon employer branding. In an age when the battle for talent is so fierce, it’s vitally important to not only to ensure equality in the workplace, but also to openly promote values of fairness and equality. Providing information on matters of equality within the workplace, especially when it is legally required, is integral to this and will pay dividends when it comes to creating a company culture that aims to attract the best employees.
3. Reaction Followed by Action
The best way to tackle a pay gap in an organisation, of course, is first of all to identify and acknowledge the problem. It is advisable, therefore, for employers to conduct an internal pay gap audit and then adjust company policies if necessary. Remember, when it comes to avoiding gender discrimination in the workplace, employers need to look further than just the pay gap. Ensure all company workplace policies, from bonuses to flexible working hours to promotions, are fair and equal for all.
In the Google case, the Department of Labour say they want the information in order to “understand what is causing the disparity, ” while Google continues to refute the claims that it underpays women. Whatever the final judgment in the case, a lesson for all employers should be to investigate their own employee pay scales, fix any pay discrepancies if necessary and make the information available should it be legally requested. This avoids unwanted suspicion, improves company reputation and ultimately helps businesses attract and retain talented employees.
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