Just 17% of Irish employers aware of their ESG obligations

Survey finds big disjuncture between how compliant employers think they are and how compliant they actually are

While all employers in Ireland have ESG (environment, social and governance) obligations, only 17 per cent know what they are and have no concerns about implementing them, according to a survey by legal firm William Fry.

The company’s new employer’s guide to ESG, which surveyed more than 400 employers and 1,000 employees, uncovered a significant disparity between how compliant employers think they are and how compliant they actually are.

It found that that while nearly four fifths of employers believe that they are compliant with all current employment legislation, only 26 per cent had an adequate remote working policy and only 20 per cent had a whistle-blowing policy.

Only 12 per cent had a right to disconnect policy, which gives employees the right to disengage from work-related electronic communications. Just a third of businesses had mental health and wellness policies.


The survey found that almost a third of employers had none of these policies.

“Employers who fail to comply with new legislation and new standards will not only face employment law risks but will also have difficulty in accessing capital markets, be at a risk reputationally, and be at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining key talent,” said Catherine O’Flynn, head of the William Fry’s employment and benefits department.

The top priority of the employees surveyed was to have a hybrid and flexible working policy, with the 25 to 34 year olds indicating that fully remote working is a high priority.

This age category also prioritised training and development the least while people older than 50 prioritised gender pay gap reporting the least.

Notably, strong diversity and inclusion practices were ranked as the second least important policy to 25 to 34 year olds, just ahead of paid volunteering time.

The top ESG policy priorities of all employees were hybrid/flexible working options (38 per cent) followed by health insurance (18 per cent); training and development (11 per cent); and full remote work options (11 per cent).

ESG is not a new concept, but until recently businesses focused primarily on the environmental aspect, the company said.

“Our survey found that 37 per cent of employers are not focused on the increasing number of ESG obligations because they do not feel it is relevant to their organisation. However all employment legislation comes within the remit of ESG so is in fact relevant to all employers,” Ms O’Flynn said.

“Employees’ rights are increasingly protected by legislative developments and are further enhanced by the social component of ESG. It is difficult to defend employment claims if an employer is not compliant with legislation and relevant codes of practice and, at a minimum, employers need to comply with current legal obligations,” she said.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times