11/03/2002

Employers urged to address issue of equal pay

Employers have been urged to apply for a Castle Award, the new mark of excellence which will reward employers’ efforts in tackling equal pay issues.

Launched by Ireland's Minister for Women, Barbara Roche, on International Women’s Day, the Castle Awards form part of a package of government action which aims to tackle the difference between men and women’s earnings.

Recent figures from the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) have revealed that that woman graduates, on average, earn 37 per cent less than men – a discrepancy which has not changed since the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970.

In addition, while the EOC advises employers to carry out "pay audits" in order to establish both the existence and size of pay gaps within their corporate structure, research has shown that many companies are reluctant to do so.

The Castle Awards, named after Barbara Castle - who introduced the Equal Pay Act – will seek to reward those who address the issue, and are open to individual employees as well as employers of all sizes and from all sectors. There will be six winners over three categories, in addition to awards for those who are "highly commended".

Speaking at the launch, Barbara Roche said: “The pay gap is getting narrower year on year, but this is not solely a matter for government. What is also needed is a cultural change amongst employers so they properly value women’s contribution to their organisation’s success.

"We want to reward the excellent work being done by employers, trades unions and individual employees to highlight and tackle equal pay issues. And we are spending over £270,000 on identifying the best ways of supporting working women and making sure employers know what these are.

She concluded: “The Castle Awards are a mark of excellence that will come to represent the ultimate standard for those committed to equal pay.”

Clara Freeman, Castle Award judge added: “Women make up almost half the workforce, double the number of 25 years ago, and are an essential part of our economy. It makes sound business sense to retain, train and progress women employees.

“The best employers need to attract the best candidates, a proven track record of valuing employees and a government stamp of approval will go a long way to achieving this."

(CL)

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