Equal Pay Claims: The Gender Pay Gap

Equal Pay in the workplace is something that is being talked about more often, as workplaces and employers strive to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and equally. This is also protected under Irish Employment law, and the Employment Equality Acts prohibit both direct and indirect discrimination across a number of grounds. The Gender Pay Gap is one issue that is often discussed, and with employers (currently only  those with over 250 employees) now obliged to report on the gender pay gap in their organisation, it is a topic that will become familiar. 

In Ireland, where two people are undertaking work that is the same or of similar value, they should be paid a similar rate of pay, or equal pay. This has been protected in Irish law since the 1970s. 

What is the Gender Pay Gap?

The Gender Pay Gap is the difference in average gross hourly earnings between men and women. It is based on salaries paid directly to employees before tax and other contributions are deducted (Source). While this does not include pension rights, other considerations such as cash or benefits-in-kind which an employee receives from their employer in respect of the employment. The latest figures show that the gender pay gap for Ireland is 11.3%  and the EU average is 13% (Source). 

Equal Pay is included in the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015, in addition to the IHREC statutory code of practice. Under this law, employers are required to pay their employees who are undertaking ‘like work’ equal remuneration. ‘Like work’ is defined as work that is the same, similar or of equal value and is one of the terms that must be part of the contract of the employment (Source).

The Pay Transparency Directive is part of a wider EU strategy that seeks to tackle concerns about the enforcement of equal pay between men and women. It aims to eliminate pay secrecy by promoting transparency by implementing reporting measures for larger companies, creating new information rights, and refreshing the concepts of the equal pay regime. It will be transposed into Irish Law by June 2026 at the latest. 

How can I make an Equal Pay Claim?

Where work is the same, similar, or of an equal value, employees should be paid a similar rate of pay. Section 76(1) of the Employment Equality Act 1998 provides that a person who considers that they are not receiving equal pay may seek information concerning remuneration from the employer – or former employer. 

In the wider context, the Employment Equality Acts prohibit both direct and indirect pay discrimination on the following grounds: 

  • Gender
  • Marital Status 
  • Family Status 
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Religion 
  • Age
  • Disability 
  • Race
  • Being a Member of the Traveller Community 

In order to bring a successful claim for equal pay, you must identify a ‘comparator’ who is carrying out ‘like work’, but is treated differently on the basis of a discriminatory grounds – in this case, on the grounds of gender. 

Once you have identified a comparator who earns more than you, and falls into one of the following categories, your employer will be required to explain this difference in pay. These categories are:

  • You are undertaking ‘like work’ – work that is the same or broadly similar 
  • Your work is ‘rated as equivalent’ – at the same grade 
  • Your work is ‘of equal value’ – you undertake different work but this is of equal value with regards to the demands of the job. 

The redress for a breach of the prohibition on unequal pay is an order for equal pay, together with an order for the payment of arrears. There is a time limit of two years from the date of reference on the claim. 

There are a number of defences to equal pay claims which you should be aware of when considering a claim. These include differences in pay which are not related to any of the protected characteristics such as length of service, capacity for extra duties, grading structure or higher qualifications, for example, or if the work is not considered ‘like work’. Market forces may also come into account here. 

It is recommended that these issues are first raised directly with your employer, in order for them to address your concerns or complaints and make amends accordingly. However, if you do not receive an adequate response, the matter can be brought to the Workplace Relations Commission. Engaging an employment law solicitor to assist with your workplace dispute is highly recommended, and will allow you to rest assured that you are aware of all of the options available to you and that your case is handled efficiently and effectively. 

If you believe that there is a member of the opposite sex who is being paid more than you for work that is equal to yours, in your workplace, you are entitled to lodge a claim.  At Martin A. Harvey & Co. Solicitors, our team is experienced in all aspects of employment law in Ireland and would be happy to advise and assist you. You can contact us here or freephone 1800 396 396.