Industrial relations

Ireland: Latest developments in working life Q4 2019

An increase in the minimum wage following a short deferral, the results of an employer survey on pay and survey findings on sexual harassment in the workplace are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Ireland in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Minimum wage increase

In October 2019, the government announced it would defer the Low Pay Commission’s recommended increase in the minimum wage until there was ‘greater clarity’ on the UK’s exit from the EU. In July 2019 the Commission had recommended that the rate of the national minimum wage for an experienced adult worker be fixed at an hourly rate of €10.10.

In response, Patricia King, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), described the decision as ‘reprehensible’, underlining that ‘the government has decided to penalise the 130,000 or so lowest-paid workers in the state’. [1]

In December, the government announced it was accepting the recommendation and that the minimum wage would increase to €10.10 from 1 February 2020.

Employer survey on pay and workplace trends

A survey of 420 employers by Ibec on pay and workplace trends shows that the annual average pay increase planned by employers for 2020 is 2.64%. [2]

In anticipation of forthcoming legislation to provide transparency on the gender pay gap, about 20% of respondents stated they are collecting data to estimate the gender pay gap within their organisation. Of the remaining employers, 28% said they were not required to report and 52% said they had not started gathering data.

Lifelong learning a high priority

In terms of priorities for the future workplace, the survey found that lifelong learning is a high priority for 49% of people within organisations, with career transitions and flexible start/finish times coming in at 38% and 33%, respectively. Reduced hours of work ranked as a high priority by just 10% and only 8% responded that a compressed working week was a high priority.

The survey also looked at the importance of well-being in the workplace, in particular the extent to which this is being strategically dealt with by organisations. In terms of employer engagement in wellness initiatives, 70% of respondents engage in employee assistance programmes, 62% engage in health awareness initiatives, 54% engage in healthy eating promotions and 52% engage in mental health awareness and/or stigma reducing activities.

Under-reporting of sexual harassment at work

Four out of five workers experiencing sexual harassment at work do not report the incident to their employer according to a survey published in November by the ICTU. Reasons for not reporting an incident vary, but nearly one-third (32%) of respondents who did not report the incident to their employer feared that doing so would have a negative impact on their working relationships, while over a quarter (27%) feared it would have a negative impact on their career. [3]

The survey found that of the minority (19%) of workers who did report sexual harassment, very few saw a positive outcome. In fact, half of those who reported sexual harassment stated they experienced worse treatment as a result, for example, by being passed over for promotions or being subjected to further bullying or harassment.

Other findings include the following:

  • 54% were subjected to unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature
  • 41% received unwelcome verbal sexual advances
  • 37% were subjected to unwelcome comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes
  • 37% experienced unwanted touching, such as a hand on the knee or lower back
  • 34% were subjected to unwelcome questions or comments about their sex life
  • 31% reported that their direct manager or another manager was the perpetrator
  • 55% of sexual harassment incidents took place on work premises
  • 30% of respondents reported that they felt less confident at work, while 18% felt it had a negative impact on their performance
  • 26% of respondents reported that the harassment had a negative impact on their mental health

ICTU surveyed 1,347 union members with experience of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault in the workplace. The online survey was conducted between 1 and 14 November. Around 72% of respondents were women (971).


Footnotes

  1. ^ ICTU (2019), Congress strongly criticises decision to defer 30 cent increase to low paid workers , 8 October.
  2. ^ Ibec (2019), HR update 2019: Key pay and workplace trends , Dublin.
  3. ^ ICTU (2019), ICTU survey reveals shockingly high levels of under-reporting of sexual harassment at work , 25 November.

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