The Sex Discrimination Act, 1975, which prevented women being paid less than their male counterparts, brought a formal end to many discriminatory practices taking place within schools. 

The Act was introduced to coincide with the end of the International Women’s Year. It outlawed sex discrimination by employers, unless they employ five or fewer people, as well as any form of bias by landlords, finance companies, schools and restaurants. 

Under the Act the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) was set up, with a duty to promote equality of the sexes. 

This landmark legislation required job advertisements to be “sexless” and positions to no longer be advertised as being exclusively for men or women. 

This legislation brought in changes to everyday language such as “firemen” becoming “fire fighters.” Although this legislation has been in place for more than 40 years, it is still common for roles and professions to be informally referred to using gendered language, such as “waitress”, “airhostess” or “postman.” 

The Act came as a culture shock to many in a society where some venues still barred women. Some employers attempted to evade the Equal Pay Act by changing women’s job descriptions or by employing women for roles in which there was no male equivalent position. 

However, there was strong enforcement of this Act, which led to many commentators declaring that the combined Acts were too radical to introduce at once and that public attitudes would need time to change.

While the new legislation took some time to bed in, it proved effective in closing the gender pay gap. Twenty-five years after its implementation a survey showed the Acts had helped close the pay difference in the gender gap from 40 per cent less than male counterparts, to 20 per cent. 

The same year 1975, also saw the introduction of the first maternity protections for women at work, under the Employment Protections Act, 1975

This Act prohibited women from being dismissed on the ground of their pregnancy, and set out their maternity pay rights. It also provided women with the legal right to return to work after pregnancy. 

Before 1975 women who left their roles when pregnant did not have the entitlement to return to work. 

EIS members fought hard for maternity rights at work, and successfully argued that these issues were not only the preserve of women.

Some employers attempted to evade the Equal Pay Act by changing women’s job
descriptions or by employing women for roles in which there was no male equivalent position