As International Women’s Day approaches, it is a time to reflect and celebrate the amazing accomplishments of women around the world and how far we have come in advancing the rights of women.
However, it is also a time to refocus on what needs to be done in order to achieve gender equality here in the United Kingdom and around the world.
With this in mind, CJCH’s trainee solicitor, Charlotte Bardet, examines gender equality in the workplace in relation to the Equality Act 2010. In addition to how the legal profession can improve its record on the pay gap, hiring practices and on work/life balance to help reach full gender equality.
What is The Equality Act 2010 and how does it impact the workplace?
The Equality Act 2010 is an Act of Parliament that consolidated and updated over 116 pieces of prior legislation relating to anti-discrimination law in Great Britain (Act does not apply to Northern Ireland) into one single Act.
Prior Acts included: Equal Pay Act 1970, Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Race Relations Act 1976 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995
The Act protects people against discrimination, harassment or victimisation in employment, and as users of private and public services based on nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
What is classed as gender discrimination? What are the differences between direct and indirect discrimination?
Under the Equality Act 2010, you must not be discriminated against because:
- you are (or are not) a particular sex;
- someone thinks you are the opposite sex (discrimination by perception);
- you are connected to someone of a particular sex (discrimination by association).
Sex can mean either male or female, or a group of people like men or boys, or women or girls. This can be a one-off action or caused by a rule/policy. Importantly, it does not have to be intentional – someone may discriminate without realising it or meaning to.
There are four main types of gender/sex discrimination:
- Direct discrimination – treating someone less favourably because of their sex than someone of the opposite sex would be treated in the same circumstances.
- Indirect discrimination – when an organisation has a rule, policy or practice which applies in the same way to both sexes but which places someone of a particular sex at a disadvantage to the opposite sex.
There are some exceptions that allow employers or organisations to discriminate because of your sex, including if it is an occupational requirement or if the organisation is taking positive action.
If you believe you’ve been discriminated against in your workplace because of your gender, what can you do
Firstly, complain/speak directly to your employer first to try and sort out the problem informally. Secondly, if the matter cannot be settled informally, talk to Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), Citizens Advice or a trade union representative.
Use mediation or alternative dispute resolution to try and settle the matter out of court. Finally, seek legal advice and potentially take a claim to the Employment Tribunal for discrimination.
What are the main things employers can do to build a gender-equal workplace?
- Train staff, and team managers in particular, how to identify discrimination when it takes place, how to deal with it and how to prevent it from happening again.
- Ensure that both genders are treated fairly and equally in recruitment, training, hiring and promotion
- Reassess job specifications for senior management positions and identify what barriers have been constructed which prevents either sex from filling them.
- Remove the gender pay gap and be transparent about pay. Each position should have a pay bracket that outlines the salary for that role.
- Prioritise a work-life balance and allow for flexible work arrangements.
Finish the sentence: We know we’ve achieved gender equality within the legal profession when…
My top three would be:
- Legal letters no longer start with ‘Dear Sirs’
- It is no longer known as a profession dominated by men in suits.
- There are as many female partners as there are male partners (CJCH is proud to have gender equality on our board of directors)
Get in touch :
We know that discrimination in the workplace is a sensitive issue and difficult to talk about. That’s why our specialist team can assist you in getting a fair and quick solution. Get in touch with a member of our team today:
Telephone: 0333 231 6405