Almost nine out 10 large Irish companies have a gender pay gap that favours men, with the widest in the finance, banking, insurance and construction sectors, according to a new report by PwC.

The end of last year marked the close of the first reporting period under the Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021. To date, more than 500 companies with 250-plus employees have disclosed their figures. Those with 150 or less will be obliged to report from 2024 onwards.

The PwC report examined the actions Irish companies are taking to improve their gender pay gap, and considered what companies should do to prepare for the future.

It found that 87 per cent disclosed a pay gap in favour of males, while 71 per cent disclosed a pay gap above 5 per cent.

Some 48 per cent of companies disclosed a pay gap above the national average, while 82 per cent of companies disclosed a bonus gap in favour of men.

The analysis revealed a mean gender pay gap of 12.6 per cent across the organisations that published reports in December. This compared to the most recently available data on Ireland’s national pay gap of 11.3 per cent (2019) and an EU average gender pay gap of 13 per cent (2020).

The gender pay gap is the difference in the average hourly wage of all males and all women in an organisation. A gender pay gap does not infer an absence of equal pay for equal work, which is a legal requirement in Ireland. Instead, it is typically a result of unequal gender representation at different organisational levels.

The gender pay gaps published in December were widest in the finance, banking, insurance and construction sectors. It was estimated that the mean hourly pay gap for the insurance sector was 21.1 per cent, nearly twice the national average.

The gaps were widest in the finance, banking/insurance and construction sectors. Although the exact reason for the gap varied by company and sector, a key factor appears to be the relatively high number of men in more senior and more highly paid roles, the report noted.

At the other end of the scale, retailers, health and charity organisations were most likely to have a larger proportion of women in higher paid roles.

Based on the analysis, the mean hourly pay gap for the charity sector was 1.7 per cent, with women comprising about two-thirds of the overall workforce and those in the upper pay quartile.

The average reported proportion of women in the workforce is 45 per cent. The ratio of women to men tended to be lowest in the engineering, construction, manufacturing and technology sectors. Conversely, the healthcare and retail sectors have a much higher ratio of women to men.

Three quarters of companies showed a higher relative proportion of men in the highest paid quartile.

The issue of representation was also reflected in the bonus gap figures. The mean bonus gap considered the monetary value of bonuses earned by men compared to women.

The mean bonus gap across the companies analysed was 22.9 per cent, reflecting the representation of men in senior roles, which in turn is linked to higher bonus payments.