Equal pay

Introduction

Employment equality legislation provides for equal pay for like work.

It is against the law for employers to discriminate based on your:

  • Gender
  • Civil status
  • Family status
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sexual orientation
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Membership of the Traveller community

You can make a claim for equal pay on any of the 9 grounds of discrimination listed above (known as the prohibited grounds).

Read more about discrimination at work.

What pay is covered?

The general phrase ‘pay’ is used to cover remuneration, which is broader than pay.

Remuneration is any payment, whether cash or otherwise, that you receive either directly or indirectly from your employer in respect of your employment.

Remuneration includes allowances, bonuses, performance payments and non-cash benefits, for example cars and mobile phones.

What counts as ‘like work’?

Like work is defined as work that is the same, similar or work of equal value.

You are entitled to equal pay if:

  • You are doing ‘like work’ to another comparable employee
  • The reason for the difference in pay is one or more of the 9 prohibited grounds (see above)

The right to equal pay is one of the terms that must be part of the contract of employment.

Code of practice on equal pay

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has developed a Code of Practice on Equal Pay. The Code aims to give practical guidance to employers, employers’ organisations, trade unions and employees on:

  • The right to equal pay
  • The elimination of pay inequality
  • The resolution of pay disputes and sets out procedures for dealing with formal and informal disputes about pay

The Code is legally admissible in evidence in proceedings before the courts, the Workplace Relations Commission, and the Labour Court.

Pay reviews

Employers can get help in the Code on how to identify pay inequality and how to eliminate it. There is information on how to conduct a pay review which incorporates a rational and objective job evaluation model.

Resolution of pay disputes

The Code sets out that you should raise a complaint if you think you are not being paid equal pay for their like work. This should be done internally at first before proceeding if necessary to the Workplace Relations Commission or Courts. See more on ‘Making a claim for equal pay’ below.

Making a claim for equal pay

Raise an informal or formal complaint with your employer

If you think you are not being paid equal pay for your ‘like work’, you should raise the matter informally with management through the internal grievance procedure in the first place.

If not resolved, you can use the formal process to pursue the pay issue. If you are not happy with the outcome of this procedure you have the option of lodging a claim with the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) or to the Circuit Court (in a gender claim).

Right to information

You can ask your employer for information about pay, for example the pay of comparable employees to help decide whether to make a claim or to help you present your claim.

You can do this using the Freedom of Information Act 2014, Data Protection Acts 1988-2018 or the statutory questionnaire system under the Workplace Relations Commission Act 2015 (the EE2 Form)(pdf).

Taking your complaint further

Bring a claim to the WRC

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) investigates or mediates claims of unlawful discrimination under equality legislation.

You can bring an equal pay claim using the WRC's online complaint form. There is no time limit for equal pay claims under equality legislation, so the general limitation period under the Statute of Limitation on breach of contract applies. This means you must make a claim within 6 years of the disparity in pay.

The WRC can award an order that you receive equal pay plus up to 3 years pay arrears before the complaint was made.

Read more about the pre-claim steps in the Community Law and Mediation (CLM) guide to taking an employment equality case.

Mediation at the WRC

In some cases, the WRC may refer your equal pay claim for mediation. When this happens, a mediation officer will speak to both parties involved and help you come to an agreed resolution. The mediation officer will record the resolution in writing, and give it to the Director General of the WRC. The terms of the resolution are confidential and legally binding on you and the other person.

Read more about workplace mediation.

Bring a claim to the Circuit Court

You can bring an equality claim based on the gender ground to the Circuit Court. You must make a claim within 6 years of the disparity in pay.

The Circuit Court can award an order that you receive equal pay plus up to 6 years pay arrears before the complaint was made.

Appeals

Decisions made by a WRC adjudication officer can be appealed, to the Circuit Court for equal status cases. Appeals must be made within 42 days of when the decision was issued.

If a Decision of the Adjudication Officer has not been complied with after 56 days, parties have the right to apply to the District Court for an order for enforcement.

Victimisation

You cannot be penalised (or punished) for bringing a claim under employment equality legislation.

Gender pay gap reporting for employers

The gender pay gap is the difference between women and men’s earnings in a workforce.

Mandatory gender pay gap reporting

Organisations must report on the pay differences between female and male employees under the new Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021. In 2022, this applies to organisations with 250 or more employees but will be extended to organisations with 150 or more employees in 2024 and organisations with 50 or more employees in 2025. Employers will have to report their gender pay gap information annually.

Reporting period for 2022

Organisations must choose the snapshot date in June 2022. The reporting period is the 12-month period immediately before and including the snapshot date. The reporting deadline is 6 months after the snapshot date, in December 2022.

Example

The organisation chooses Friday 24 June 2022 as its snapshot date. Its reporting deadline is 24 December 2022. Its reporting period is 25 June 2021 to 24 June 2022.

Information that must be included in the report

Employers will be asked to report on the following information:

  • The mean and median hourly wage gap. The mean hourly wage gap reflects the entire pay range in an organisation. The median hourly wage gap excluded the impact of unusually high earners.
  • Data on bonus pay.
  • The mean and median pay gaps for part-time employees and for employees on temporary contracts.
  • The proportions of male and female employees in the lower, lower middle, upper middle and upper quartile pay bands.

You can read detailed guidance on how to calculate the gender pay gap metrics.

The Employment Equality Act 1998 (section 20A)(Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2022 sets out details on how key gender pay gap metrics should be calculated.

If there are gaps in women and men’s earnings

Where there is a gap between women’s and men’s earnings, employers will need to explain why there is a gap and what measures are being taken to eliminate or reduce it.

More information

You can read more in our page about equality and discrimination disputes.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is a statutory body set up to provide information to the public on human rights and equality legislation. In some cases it can provide legal assistance to people who wish to bring claims to the Equality Tribunal. You can read more in IHREC’s booklet Your Employment Equality Rights Explained.

Read or download a free guide to taking an employment equality case from the Community Law and Mediation (CLM) website. CLM also offers free legal information, advice and mediation services.

Page edited: 10 June 2022