An analysis of up to 500 firms based in Ireland that published gender pay gap reports in December has found a mean gap of 12.6%.

The analysis carried out by PwC Ireland discovered that the widest pay gaps are in the finance, banking, insurance, legal and construction sectors.

The lowest gaps were recorded in retail, health and charity organisations.

"Although the exact reason for a gender pay gap varies by company and sector, a key factor appears to be the relatively high number of males in more senior (and so, more highly paid) roles," said Doone O'Doherty, Partner, PwC Ireland People & Organisation.

"Looking at disclosures on pay quartiles, three-quarters of companies appear to show a higher relative proportion of men in the 'highest paid’ quartile."

"The more males a company has in these top quartiles relative to the number of females, the higher that company’s pay gap is likely to be."

Companies that have more than 250 employees were obliged to report their gender pay gap by December 31st for the first time under new laws.

While an official national figures is not yet available, the last published data for 2019 found Ireland’s national gender pay gap was 11.3% while the EU average was 13% the following year.

The information compiled by PwC found that the mean hourly pay gap for the insurance sector is 21.1%, nearly twice the national average.

In contrast, however, the mean hourly pay gap for the charity sector is approximately 1.7%.

Overall, 87% of companies disclosed a gender pay gap in favour of males, with 71% showing a gender pay gap above 5%.

48% of companies disclosed a gender pay gap above the most recent national average of 11.3%.

The disclosures also include bonus data, which collectively shows that 82% of companies paying a bonus disclosed a bonus gap in favour of males.

The mean hourly bonus gap is estimated to be 22.9%, approximately 1.8 times the size of the reported mean hourly pay gap.

"This reflects the representation of males in senior roles, which, in turn, is linked to higher bonus payments," PwC said.

Firms will have to file fresh reports in December of this year based on their situation in June.

From next year on, smaller employers with fewer than 150 employees will also have to report.

"This transparency is to be welcomed, as is the focus that many companies are putting on closing the gender pay and bonus gap," said Doone O'Doherty.

"This will be a considerable challenge, particularly for those in sectors with large gaps. Progress will require a concerted effort that is enabled by HR, but led by business leaders, to make active changes to improve the representation of women in their businesses."