New Codes of Practice to Tackle Pay Inequality and Workplace Harassment

Two New Codes Published around International Women’s Day

Two new statutory Code of Practice developed by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (the ‘Commission’) have been launched to help eliminate pay inequality and tackle workplace harassment and sexual harassment.

The new Codes, published in the week of International Women’s Day set out the procedures and steps to ensure that employees receive equal pay for like work in Ireland’s workplaces, and are not subjected to harassment or sexual harassment in employment.

The Commission has developed and published these Codes following consultation, and in response to growing concerns about these issues, which primarily impact women, but affect people across the equality grounds.

The Code of Practice on Equal Pay provides employers, trade unions and employees with practical guidance on the right to equal pay, how to eliminate pay inequality, and how to resolve pay disputes. The Code of practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment at Work sets out what is meant by employment-related sexual harassment and harassment, how it can be prevented; and the necessary steps to ensure that organisations are ready to deal with it, and to prevent it from happening again.

A Statutory Instrument has been tabled by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman T.D., the new Codes are legally admissible in evidence in proceedings before the courts, the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court.

On the Code of Practice on Equal Pay

  • Irish equality law provides for nine protected grounds on the basis of which a person must not be paid any less. They are; gender, marital status, family status, age, disability, sexual orientation, race, religion and membership of the Traveller community.
  • An employee who is performing work that is the same, similar or of equal value to that of another person employed by the same employer, and who differs in respect of one or more of nine protected grounds, has a right to be paid the same as that other person.
  • The Code provides guidance to help employers identify pay inequality and to eliminate it, including on how to conduct a pay review which incorporates a rational and objective job evaluation model.
  • The employer benefits of pay equity include avoiding legal costs, promoting staff retention, increasing morale and productivity. The Code sets out how someone who considers that they are not being paid equal pay for their like work, should raise this internally at first before then proceeding if necessary to the Workplace Relations Commission or Courts.

These Codes come as the Commission has also been provided with new legal powers to tackle gender pay gaps in organisations through The Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021. The act, which was signed into law by the President in July 2021 but has yet to be commenced, will require organisations with over 250 employers to report and publish information relating to their gender pay gap, and, where there is a gap, to explain why there is a gap and what measures are being taken to reduce it. Reporting by organisations is expected to commence this year.

On the Code of Practice on Harassment and Sexual Harassment

  • Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, or other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of women and men at work. Harassment is any form of unwanted conduct related to any of the prohibited grounds which violates a person’s dignity and creates an intimidating, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.
  • The Code highlights that people in precarious work and new workers, including immigrant workers, are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and harassment. It sets out policies and procedures that establish work environments which are free of harassment and respect everyone’s dignity.

Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission sa:

These Code of Practice published today must guide employers, trade unions and employees on making their workplaces not only safe, but also equal places to work.

“In no circumstances is harassment or sexual harassment at work acceptable. It violates a person’s dignity as well as creating an intimidating, degrading and humiliating environment.

“While not all pay disparity is gender-based, it’s important around International Woman’s Day to spotlight unequal pay for women in particular which sees women’s work and contributions undervalued, belittled and overlooked. 

“We have been granted new legal powers to take on instances of egregious gender pay gaps, and we are considering now how we can leverage these new legal powers to create real and lasting change in eliminating pay inequality.”

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman said:

“I want to thank the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for their work on the development of these Codes of Practice, which will serve to strengthen the protections available to employees nationwide and will equip employers with the tools and motivation to implement policies that are responsive to the needs of their employees. The development of Codes of Practice is an important element of the role of IHREC in promoting equality in Irish society.

“While not exclusively a gender-based issue, it is fitting that these measures tackling pay disparity, and harassment and sexual harassment should be introduced on the week of International Women’s Day given that these issues can have a disproportionate impact on female members of the workforce. These new Codes of Practice are a welcome addition to the suite of legislative and policy measures that have been introduced in recent years to advance gender equality.

“It is vital that we continue to implement policies that foster safe and inclusive work environments and that promote fair and equitable treatment of all employees.”

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes to editor:

The two Codes of Practice produced by The Human Rights and Equality Commission are available at the following links:

The Commission has invoked its statutory powers under section 31(2) of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 in preparing these Codes of Practice.

The Commission can prepare Codes of Practice in furtherance of one or more of the following aims: (a) the protection of human rights; (b) the elimination of discrimination; (c) the promotion of equality of opportunity in employment; (d) the promotion of equality of opportunity in relation to those matters to which the Equal Status Act (2000) applies.

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality, and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

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