Alliance MLA Stephen Farry has expressed disappointment Northern Ireland is once again failing behind on a key equality measure, thanks to the inaction of the previous Executive.
Today is the deadline for organisations with more than 250 employees in Britain to publish figures comparing men and women’s average pay in the company. Requirements for similar regulations for local companies were included in the Employment Act 2016, which former Employment and Learning Minister Dr Farry steered through the Assembly.
However, he said the Executive in place before the collapse of power-sharing showed “little evidence of making any progress” in meeting the legal deadline.
“Transparency around equal pay is vital to address any discrimination and structural inequalities within the workplace. Fairness is essential to ensure our economy is working most efficiently through recognising and rewarding all talent equally,” said Dr Farry.
“Once again Northern Ireland is badly out of step with the rest of the UK on a key equality issue. This gap is more than just a reflection of the current absence of an Executive, reflecting failures within the previous Executive to put in place regulations to follow through on the requirements set out in the 2016 Employment Act.
“Prior to 2016, matters relating to equal pay were the responsibility of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister. However, while unusual, I facilitated it being taken forward as part of the 2016 Employment Act as Minister for Employment and Learning. A Sinn Féin amendment to the Bill received unanimous support in the Assembly. Indeed, this may have been the only equality matter passed by the Assembly since 2007.
“The legislation was specific in that regulations must be in place by June 2017. Responsibility for sexual discrimination and equal pay transferred to the Department for Communities in the reorganisation of Departments. Significant work and a public consultation would be necessary to meet this deadline. There is no evidence of that having been taken forward. One of the key issues to be addressed would have been the threshold size for businesses in Northern Ireland to be required to report.
“It may be convenient to highlight this gap in Northern Ireland legislation as a consequence of the collapse of the institutions, yet even if they had still been in place it is hard to see how the legal deadline would have been met. Any proposals would have had to be presented for consultation before the end of 2016 to have any realistic expectation of meeting the legislative deadline.”