In anticipation of celebrating International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, we are taking this opportunity to assess gender balance in the Irish workplace and consider how Irish Employers can inspire inclusion.

Recent Gender Equality Developments
Gender equality is a key priority in both domestic and European legislative chambers.

Ireland’s employment equality legislation is currently under review and has already been bolstered in recent years by the addition of gender pay gap reporting obligations. Employers with 150 Employees or more will be required to publish a gender pay gap report in 2024. The EU Pay Transparency Directive was also finalised last year which will introduce new pay transparency measures for jobseekers and existing Employees by 2026 at the latest.

Against this backdrop, the following article will focus on the challenges faced by Organisations in achieving gender equality, what action Employers can take to promote gender balance as well as existing and proposed employment legislation that impacts Employer compliance.

Recent Case Law Review: Potential Risk of Gender-based Salary Disparities
It is useful to look at recent rulings in the WRC which highlight the potential impact of gender discrimination complaints. A discount retailer was recently ordered to pay €77,000 to an Employee. €55,000 of that compensation was awarded due to gender-based disparities in pay.  The adjudicator said a penalty for infringing the Employee’s rights under an EU directive should be substantial, fair, and serve as a deterrent. Read full case law review.

Gender Equality Challenges: Not Just a Question of Equal Pay
In preparing to enact the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023, the Government considered research finding that there was a substantial gap in labour force participation between women and men. The latest available figures from the CSO reveal that the employment rate for males aged 15-64 years was 78.4%, compared to 70.0% for females.

The ESRI also published a report last year which found that unpaid care duties are one of the biggest influences on gender gaps in the labour market. A major obstacle to achieving gender balance is therefore an imbalance in the allocation of work and family responsibilities between the genders. With care responsibilities equally shared between women and men in only around one-third of families, many women are denied access to the labour market or access to permanent work.

Women who are working full-time also face employment-related challenges around unconscious bias, menstruation, menopause, domestic abuse and pregnancy which can be difficult issues to address in the workplace.

Gender equality in the workplace is therefore a complex area of HR that encompasses a range of factors outside of simply ensuring equal pay for equal work.

Inspiring Inclusion
The theme of International Women’s Day 2024 is #InspireInclusion.

As there is no silver bullet for achieving gender balance in the workplace, each Organisation must consider their operations and assess what might be contributing to gender inequality. The ESRI’s recent research concluded that work-life balance policies are a central consideration for supporting women’s labour market participation and employment and achieving gender equality in the labour market.

While sociocultural factors on the gender division of unpaid work in the household remain relevant, the length and compensation level of parental, paternity and carer’s leaves, and the availability of flexible working arrangements all play an important role in promoting equal allocation of caring in the household and continuing progress on equal labour market participation.

Organisations can therefore take a big first step towards creating a more inclusive culture for women by assessing the effectiveness of family-friendly policies and benefits as well as considering workplace supports for women to assist with IVF, early pregnancy loss and menopause.

Recent Employment Law Developments
The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 is now partially in force.

Three new rights came into effect last year. Breastfeeding rights are now available to Employees for two years after a child’s birth, five days’ unpaid medical care leave is in place for eligible Employees subject to certain conditions and Employees are also now entitled to five days’ paid domestic violence leave.

The much-anticipated rights to request remote work and flexible work are not yet in effect but are imminent. Employers should carefully consider how these new rights can be included in a more family-friendly and inclusive work environment.

At EU level, the Pay Transparency Directive was finalised in June 2023 and aims to address concerns that the principle of equal pay for equal work is not being enforced. Ireland has already passed legislation providing for mandatory gender pay gap reporting as required by the Directive but there are more wide-ranging pre-employment pay transparency obligations for Employers to consider. Employees will also have new rights to request information around pay data from their Employer and Organisations will not be permitted to use pay secrecy clauses.

While the deadline for implementation in Ireland is the 7th of June 2026, the Remuneration Information & Pay Transparency Bill 2023 is already making its way through the legislative process and Organisations should consider the impact of the Directive on their compliance activity well in advance of that date.

It should also be noted that the statutory entitlement to paid leave for parents will increase from seven to nine weeks in August 2024. This Employee entitlement must be availed of in the first two years after the birth or adoption of a child.

The Workplace Benefits of Inspiring Inclusion
The benefits of a truly equal-opportunities workplace are far-reaching. Organisations that get gender balance right are more successful, make better decisions and provide a more cohesive business environment for all their Employees.

Research has found that the most diverse companies are more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability. An inclusive Organisation also tends to be more responsive to increasingly heterogenous customer markets, better able to come up with solutions to complex problems, more productive and more likely to have a positive reputation.

In the current climate where Government policy is focused on making further progress on gender equality, it is a good time to review existing policies and practices to not only ensure your Organisation is compliant but also in position to reap the many rewards of creating an inclusive workplace culture.

Wishing you and your team a very Happy International Women’s Day 2024.

If your organisation needs advice, support or guidance in relation to this or an HR issue, contact Adare call (01) 561 3594 or email
Adare is a team of expert-led Employment Law, Industrial Relations and best practice Human Resource Management consultants.