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Revealed: New findings highlight gender pay gaps at Irish-based companies in the UK

Men at Irish-based companies operating in the UK are earning significantly more than their female colleagues, analysis can reveal.

he findings, based primarily on UK data, give an insight ahead of Ireland’s first gender pay gap reporting season, when firms with over 250 staff will have to disclose any differences in pay.

Around 660 Irish-based firms will have to report to the Department for Equality on the differences in average pay and bonuses across their Irish business from December 1.

Companies obliged to report their data will include banks, academic institutions such as universities, media organisations – including Mediahuis Ireland, owner of this publication – and state-owned bodies such as An Post.

The gap between women’s and men’s mean (average) hourly wage came to around 16pc in 2021, in the sample of 53 companies analysed by

Most of the data is based on the firms’ UK operations, but some Irish figures were available. The firms chosen were Irish-owned, active in Ireland or have indicated that they intend to establish an Irish arm.

The pay gap was largest in law firms, transport companies, management consultants and banks, with some tech firms also showing large disparities.

Men far outnumbered women in the highest-paid roles in all but one of the firms sampled.

Manufacturing and transport firms featured the smallest proportion of women at the top of the pay scale and across the business.

But the pay gap was high even where there was a significant proportion of women employed across the business.

And it was low – or non-existent – in some firms where very few women were employed.

In Kingspan Insulated Panels, one of the manufacturer’s UK divisions, women are paid marginally more than men, despite making up just 13pc of the overall workforce.

That’s because they “account for more white collar roles in the business” the firm said, whereas men do the “blue collar” roles. However, men made almost 20pc more in bonuses at the firm.

Ryanair had the largest pay gap of the Irish firms studied, with men making, on average, just over 45pc per hour more than women last year (down from over 60pc pre-pandemic, with Covid furloughs skewing the data). Just 2.3pc of pilots are female, and only 6.5pc of women at Ryanair were in the highest pay band.

Financial giant Citigroup, consultants PwC, Bank of Ireland’s UK arm and Exertis, one of Irish multinational DCC’s UK businesses, had UK gaps in excess of 30pc.

Technology firms LinkedIn, Intel and Workday had gaps of over 20pc in the UK.

Real estate developer Cairn Homes, energy company SSE, social media giant Twitter, clothing retailer Primark and aluminium can maker Ardagh all had pay gaps in the high teens.

Primark was the only company in the sample where women made up the vast majority of higher-paid staff (almost 70pc in 2021). However, they made 70pc less than men, on average, in bonuses last year, because “women in receipt of these payments were in junior roles and this skews the results”, the company said.

Irish Ferries owner ICG had a 39pc female workforce (in 2020) but a 26.2pc average hourly pay gap, with only 18.8pc of women in the highest pay band. In its 2021 annual report, the firm said this was “characteristic of the maritime industry”.

Tesco stores in the UK, where the pay gap was 9.3pc last year, have more male colleagues working Sundays, nights and bank holidays – shifts that pay premiums.

Smurfit Kappa paid women twice as much in bonuses last year as men, though the hourly average pay gap still amounted to almost 10pc in the UK last year.

State agencies, which tend to be unionised, fare better on gender parity and pay.

The BBC had a majority female workforce last year (55pc) and a low gender pay gap of 5pc.

The Central Bank of Ireland has one of the lowest gender pay gaps in the country, at 2.2pc, and employs 48pc women across the workforce.

But Bank of Ireland employs almost as many women as men in Ireland, yet women were paid on average 23.8pc less per hour here than men last year. Bank of Ireland has been voluntarily disclosing its Irish pay gap for the last two years.

While the study is in no way exhaustive – and many of the 2021 figures are skewed due to pandemic layoffs and furlough schemes – it shows the gender pay gap in certain sectors is far higher than official Irish and EU estimates, which put it at 11.3pc in 2019.

A recent survey by IrishJobs offshoot Universum found the overall gender pay gap in Ireland is 16pc – in terms of annual pay – with the IT sector showing the biggest difference. On average, men working in IT earn €12,000 more a year than their female counterparts.

Laura Bambrick, head of social and employment affairs at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), said the problem is that women are less represented in “higher value jobs”.

“The difficulties in the pay gap is not valuing the type of work that is being done by women in the same way as it’s done by a man.

“You see it around primary school teaching and nursing. We value the types of professions that we see women in less than we do very male-dominated ones. That is an international thing.”

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