Employment Law and the Rights of women
A fascinating article written by Employment Solicitor Alexandra Bullmore on the Rights of women and Employment
It is unlawful for an employer to treat an employee, worker or contractor worse than their co-workers because of their sex. However, there are still many issues and disparity which women face in the workplace.
Just a google search of recent news stories on this topic brings up articles from the past two days from “employers have been urging women to dress ‘sexier’ in video meetings” from The Independent and “Labour urges government to act over bosses failing to pay shielding pregnant women full wages during Covid crisis” from the Morning Star.
Under the Equality Act 2010 there is the protection from sex discrimination and the Act implements the right of equal treatment for men and women in relation to access to employment, vocational training and promotion and working conditions. In prohibits direct sex discrimination, indirect discrimination, sex harassment, sexual harassment and victimisation in the workplace.
An employer obviously has to comply with the above legislation but it also includes that an employer will be vicariously liable for the actions of an employee if they discriminate or harasses another, unless the employer has taken reasonable steps to prevent the conduct from taking place. “Reasonable steps” could include training, policies and by dealing with incidents appropriately when they happen.
Recently there have been initiatives from the government such as the gender pay gap reporting to try and close this disparity in pay between men and women. This should be differentiated between the equal pay provisions under the Equality Act 2010 which provide for an “equality of terms”, and whilst these provisions can cover a wide array of claims and are fairly complex in there application, in general terms, they allow for claims in an employment tribunal where a person believes that their pay is less due to their sex, and no due to the role. There is a lot of case law in this area and cases are complex, such as the recent Asda equal pay case, where around 38,000 shop floor workers (most of whom were women) claimed that they should have been paid the same wages as distribution centre employees (most of whom were men, receiving a higher rate of pay).
The gender pay gap reporting is a wider look at women’s pay in comparison to men throughout a business which instead picks up on the promotion of women in organisations and also the types of roles which women and men predominately have and how these are paid differently. It is hoped that by companies having to produce these reports every year, it will mean that initiatives to help women progress are more common place, and that eventually there will be a noticeable improvement in the gender pay gap in the UK. However, apart from the initial news reports of the worse offending companies, there seems to be little reporting on this now and only time will tell if this compulsory reporting of figures makes a genuine difference to gender pay gap which we currently have.
Although the legislation and case law is in place, there is clearly still a long way to go in creating a culture and environment where both men and women are treated equally across all workplaces. Employers need to actively ensure that sex discrimination does not take place in their workplace and employees also need to speak up when they believe something to be wrong which will help employers understand the issues.
About the author
Alexandra Bullmore is an employment solicitor at Smith Partnership Solicitors. Alongside her job advising business's and individuals, Alexandra is also a school governor. She has her own Instagram page providing advise and inspiration for aspiring solicitors over on instagram.
"If you have concerns over any of the above and would like further specific advice then please drop me a message on Instagram, @alemplaw or email on Alexandra.email@example.com".