Seán Murray, Director of Product Services at Zellis Ireland, introduces our latest report exploring the state of employer diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the Republic of Ireland today.

I’m very pleased to introduce the latest report from our ongoing research on DEI in Ireland’s employer space. This piece is a follow-up to our previous study, conducted with Economist Insight in 2021. 

It could be argued that a strong lens was only really directed onto DEI in Ireland following the establishment of the Irish Human Rights Equality Commission in 2014. The country’s population has become increasingly multicultural as people from around the world come to establish new lives and further their careers.  With many multinational organisations setting up bases in Dublin and other cities, Irish workplaces are becoming more diverse, moving conversations about equity and inclusion up the agenda.  

When asked if they have seen improvements over the past three years, a large majority of respondents said yes, on both diversity (64%) and inclusion (67%). The introduction of gender pay gap reporting in 2022 is one example of the steps being taken in Ireland towards better DEI. Should this develop to include ethnicity and other characteristics, it will certainly bring a sharp focus to equality in terms of reward. 

Overall, the DEI dial is moving in the right direction, spurred partly by labour market realities. Demonstrating a diverse and inclusive culture, within which to nurture and retain staff, is becoming an essential selling point when wooing talent in a fiercely competitive environment. 

Inclusion is a far more difficult challenge for employers because it isn’t tangible in the same way as diversity. It’s much harder to track, quantify and measure. Lots of organisations are improving when it comes to bringing more diverse talent in, but they haven’t got inclusion right.” 

Dr Zaheer Ahmad (pictured, below), Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Haleon
DEI 2 Dr Zaheer Ahmad, Haleon

Low data collection and data discomfort hamper DEI in Ireland

As employers look to respond to the changing needs of the workforce, they will need to harness data collection to understand who employees are, so they can benchmark and track improvements. But currently, only 11-22% of employees in Ireland have received requests to share diversity data (compared with 24-32% in the UK). So it’s clear that organisations need to step up those efforts.  

There is another barrier: Irish employees are not always particularly willing to share personal data. When it comes to certain characteristics, such as disability and sexual orientation, 35% indicated they would not be comfortable sharing this with their employer (compared with just 23% in the UK). 

The reasons for this relatively low level of trust are complex. Historical and cultural factors may well be at play, as well as the reasons cited in the research: lack of clarity on the use of the data, and concern over data protection.  

It’s very possible that recent high-profile events such as the Public Service Card rollout of 2019, and cyber-attacks on the public sector, have fostered a level of data distrust among Irish employees. 

Regardless of the reasons, the remedy is clear: provide absolute transparency and comfort to employees when it comes to the collecting and processing of personal information.  Data is a crucial starting point to understanding and improving the DEI situation in Irish workplaces.  

Employers need to demonstrate a new level of transparency, sharing insights on where improvements are being made, where and why elements of their DEI initiatives are failing, and how they are planning to address these areas. When employers start providing regular, transparent communications on DEI performance, then employees will become far more comfortable and open to disclosing more personal data.   

Aggie Mutuma (pictured, below), CEO and Lead Consulting Director, Mahogany Inclusion Partners
DEI 2022 Zellis Report Aggie Mutuma

Build DEI into your HR reporting and analytics 

Companies need to have a rigorous, evidence-based approach to diversity, equity and inclusion. This starts with collecting diversity data systematically and at scale. This requires that employees feel confident enough to disclose their characteristics including gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disabilities and social background.  

With this in mind, Zellis’ new module helps collect this data systematically and in line with best practice. It’s free to all customers of our cloud-based payroll and HR software through the self-service MyView module. We hope that this, coupled with strong senior leadership support in our customer base, can contribute to making workplaces more inclusive and fairer.   

For more key stats and detailed insights, download the full report.