Today marks International Women’s Day, a day where the world recognises the achievements of women across economic, social, cultural and political fields around the globe. Our Employment Solicitors have used this opportunity to consider equality within the workplace and updates within UK employment law.
This year’s theme focuses on embracing equity, which continues to carry the ethos and focus on recognising gender fairness and impartiality as a requirement in all parts of society, including within the workplace.
To this extent, we ask employers to consider does their organisation endeavour to provide equal opportunities and considerations for all employees? In particular, have they established the relevant policies and implemented fair practices?
Bias and discrimination persist within the workplace, however, it is important to remember sex is a protected characteristic within the Equality Act 2010.
More recently, in case law, we have seen it is important that an employer takes a proactive approach in preventing discrimination, whether that’s within the workplace or even simply with work-related activities. It is important to ensure staff are aware of their comments and behaviours during this time and to that extent we have seen an influx in the introduction of diversity and inclusion training days and policies, changes in the approach to flexible working and more opportunities afforded to women in leadership. Diversity recording for certain larger organisations helps to ensure accountability, whilst moving away from simple tick-box training days ensures employees are actively asked to consider their behaviour whilst working.
So we ask employers to consider the following checklist:
- Has the organisation implemented active training around diversity and inclusion?
- Are there clear systems in place to ensure complaints and concerns are dealt with promptly and efficiently, particularly to deal with discrimination or harassment allegations?
- Has the organisation considered pay practices and given consideration to Equal Pay/gender pay gap concerns particularly where they are required to report these?
- Does the employer provide resources or options for those seeking to achieve a work-life balance? In particular does the organisation have a policy to manage requests or promote a culture within which the employees feel they can share their thoughts or provide reasonable options?
In line with this, we also summarise some important topics currently being considered:
The House of Commons’ Women & Equalities Committee have recently published its response to an independent report proposing various changes to employment practices in order to assist women going through menopause. Although the report confirms it does not intend for the government to support all changes, it does recommend introducing a national ‘Menopause Employment Champion’. The Champion’s role will include producing a report every six months highlighting progress made to support those affected.
New duty to prevent sexual harassment
The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill 2022-23 is a Private Members’ Bill seeking to create a proactive duty for employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent employees from harassment by third-parties.
Flexible working requests
The Government’s consultation response to making flexible working the “default position” was published in December 2022.
The proposals include:
- making the right to request flexible working a “day one right” for employees (removing the 26 week qualifying period).
- requiring an employer to consult with the employee if it is considering rejecting a request,
- allowing two requests in a 12-month period (instead of one)
- reducing response time to two months (instead of three)
- no requirement for the employee to specify how the employer might deal with the effects of the request.
Some of these are contained in the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill 2022-23, a Private Members’ Bill which is still progressing through the House of Lords.
Parental/Carer/Neo-natal leave and Pregnancy protection
Since September 2021, the government has promised a right for unpaid carers of up to a week of unpaid leave per year. It is included in the Carer’s Leave Bill 2022-23, which is progressing through parliament. The Government announcements in March 2020 also confirmed the intention to introduce statutory neonatal leave and pay for up to 12 weeks for parents of babies requiring neonatal care. These new rights are reflected in the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill 2022-23.
The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill 2022-23 is a Private Members’ Bill with an as yet unknown implementation date. This seeks to prohibit redundancy during pregnancy and maternity, adoption or shared parental leave and for six months afterwards.
Where can I find further help?
Should you require any further advice or guidance regarding the above, please contact our employment team by emailing here or by calling our specialist team on 01635 508080.
Find out more information on International Women’s day 2023 and this years theme on #EmbraceEquity here.