2023 marked the second year in which employers in Ireland with 250 or more employees were required to publish their gender pay gap (GPG) report. From the reports the CIPD has reviewed, we can see that some organisations reported minor improvements in their GPG but many went backwards, with the pay gap growing. Looking at the overall gender pay trend in a company is becoming increasingly insufficient, as there can be larger pay gaps between different ways of working.

National trends

In October 2023, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) produced updated national GPG figures for Ireland for 2022. It reported a GPG of 9.6%, indicating that on average, males earned 9.6% more per hour. The highest GPG was in the financial, insurance and real estate sectors at 24.7%. The lowest GPG was in the education sector at 2.7%.

Sector trends

  • Financial firms tend to have the highest pay gaps mainly due to fewer females at a senior level, with a sector average of 24.7%, according to the CSO. In company GPG reports for 2023, some of the top insurers reported pay gaps of over 20%. In retail banking, the lowest GPG was PTSB at 16.3%, down slightly from 17.5% the previous year.
  • The CSO reported a high GPG of 18.6% in the professional, scientific and technical sector. Worryingly, some of Ireland’s top legal firms reported an increase in their mean GPGs in their 2023 company reports, and only one of those firms reported a GPG of lower than 50% for 2023. We recognise that the situation looks better when equity partners are excluded, but clear initiatives are needed not only to reverse the increase, but to fundamentally tackle the issues giving rise to the GPG.
  • In the public sector, some well-known organisations recorded falls in their overall GPG in their 2023 reports, including a significant fall of more than 6% at the Department of Transport. Overall, a group of nine Irish Government departments saw reductions of more than 2% in their GPG. Many of the departments with lower GPGs in 2023 commented on the higher share of females in more senior positions, driving down the gap.
  • The CSO also identified a high gender pay gap in the information and communication sector at 15.5%. The top technology companies were generally within this range in their 2023 reports. Dell Technologies Ireland showed positive progress among its full-time employees, as its GPG dropped from 15% to 9.8%, and its bonus pay gap was reduced from 33.1% to 4.9%. Microsoft in Ireland had a GPG gap of 3% for 2023 and succeeded in reducing its bonus pay gap from 9.8% to 1.6% over the year.
  • The CSO data reports the regional breakdown of the GPG across the country, with different regions having a GPG ranging from 0% to 14.2%. In the South East (Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford and Waterford), the GPG is 0.03%. While congratulations are due to the region, the reason behind this is worth exploring to understand how it may relate to the profile of the workforce, the nature of the work, and perhaps family working patterns.

Impact of bonus payments and part-time working

  • The differential between males and females is much greater when we look at bonus payments, where the average of the bonuses awarded to females were, overall, less than their male counterparts. While many organisations do not pay bonuses, there were instances of particularly large gaps in bonus payments, for example in construction (over 70%) and technology (over 40%).
  • When it comes to part-time employees, more females than males are employed on a part-time based, and this is reflected in the CSO gender pay data. Full-time male employees on average earned 7% more than females in full-time employment. The national GPG is reversed for part-time workers. Part-time male employees earned 6.9% less than their part-time female counterparts, and such figures are reported as a negative GPG figure.
  • At a company level, this is reflected in significant pay gaps, with many company reports showing that part-time females were earning, on average, more than their male counterparts. There is generally much fewer male part-time employees, but large gaps with males earning significantly less than females remains an equality issue. Large private sector organisations reported gaps that ranged from -66% with females being paid substantially more than males, to the opposite direction with instances of males being paid up to 58% more on average per hour. Government departments were more balanced with examples at 15% and -15%.
  • Within the data, we see that sub-groups of employees, such as part-time workers, can have a big impact on the overall company result. People professionals should further investigate imbalances, understand the profile of employees who are experiencing higher gender pay gaps, and identify actions at a local level to help address this. Alternative approaches and fast-tracking must be considered rather than accepting legacy processes/ requirements that indirectly favoured one group over another.

Impact of gender pay gap reporting

  • The legislation has had a positive impact on raising visibility and awareness of the GPG, particularly at senior levels. However, we need to see greater ongoing attention on the action plans that have been produced to ensure there is follow-through on commitments.
  • While some organisations have dialled up their action plans, others were more laid back, with fewer details included. And the real question is whether they are making steps to reduce GPG where necessary.
  • The risk to a company’s brand is increasing. Employees – and candidates – are more tuned in to GPG levels. New apps on social media platforms now track what companies announce on International Women’s Day in support of female employees. A bot will then seek out the company’s published GPG and retweet with that figure. This gives an indicator of how authentic a company really is when it comes to pay and equality for females.
  • The good news for employees is that the boards of organisations need to sign off GPG reports before they become publicly accessible. This means that equality issues, including pay, are getting more attention at board level than ever before. We look forward to seeing more and more organisations prioritising this as a result.

What is happening next

  • In 2024, smaller companies who employ between 150 and 249 people are required to produce their first annual GPG report. Businesses that fall into the reporting net for the first time should address their data needs now so they can access the right information for June, when they take a ‘snapshot date’ for calculation purposes. In 2025 all companies who employ 50 or more employees will have to produce a GPG report.
  • We know from the CSO figures that SMEs have an average GPG of 20% – about double the national average. Therefore, we may see much higher gender pay gaps in reports for 2024 from these smaller firms.
  • There is a government commitment to bring in a central online system where companies will have to store their annual GPG report, to ensure it is accessible. From two years of reporting, we can see that a number of companies must take their reporting more seriously, as some reports are hard to find and others omit part of the mandatory statistics. Employees can lodge a complaint of non-compliance by their employer to the Workplace Relations Commission and designated officers may be appointed to investigate how employers prepare the information and its accuracy.
  • The forthcoming EU Pay Transparency Directive will put more pressure on organisations to explain where they have a GPG of above or below 5%. In such circumstances, employers will be required to conduct a joint pay assessment with employee representatives and develop an appropriate action plan.

We can see that some of Ireland’s top organisations are making progress in dealing with their overall GPG, but varying gaps across the workforce shows that the devil can be in the detail and all aspects of the employee profile must be considered.

More information on gender pay gap reporting requirements is available on the employment law page.

About the author

Mary Connaughton, Director for the CIPD in Ireland

Mary leads the growth, development and contribution of the people profession in Ireland. She pushes forward our agenda of people-centric decisions, wellbeing, inclusion and flexible working through research, policy and member engagement. 

Mary has a wealth of HR experience, supporting individuals and companies on the strategic people agenda, HR practice and organisation development. Previously she headed up HR Development at employers’ group Ibec, consulted widely across the public and private sector and held organisation development roles in the financial and consulting sectors.

Mary is on the Boards of the Public Appointments Service and the Retirement Planning Council and represents the people profession in Ireland at the European Association of People Management.

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