For over a century, International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred every year to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women across the world. This day also aims to create a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. IWD is celebrated on 8th March every year and is not focused on one country or race, but rather every woman across the world.
On 8th March this year, IWD focused on a break the bias theme and how whether conscious or unconscious, the bias makes it difficult for women to progress. IWD explains that gender equality needs to be focused on and equality for women should be a focus of businesses and individuals around the world.
This month, Herries-Smith look at women in business and some of the common issues women face in the workplace including sexual discrimination, menopause bias and the gender pay gap.
Sex discrimination happens when someone is unfairly disadvantaged by reason of their sex. Most sex discrimination occurs against women but it is just as unlawful to discriminate against men because of their sex. Sexual harassment in the workplace still persists and there are ongoing campaigns to raise awareness and encourage action to tackle it. Young women in business experience more forms of sexual harassment than men do. Disabled women experience more forms of harassment than non-disabled women do. In 2020, research conducted by CIPD found that fewer than 5% of sexual harassment experiences were reported.
If you feel you are being discriminated against because of your gender or gender choices, Herries-Smith can support you through this process. To successfully take legal action, you normally need to be able to prove that someone of a different sex has been or would be treated more favourably than you in similar or the same circumstances. This however is not relevant to those who are being discriminated against due to pregnancy or maternity leave.
It is against the law to discriminate against you if you are undergoing gender reassignment if you are planning to or have already undergone gender reassignment and those being discriminated against for this reason can either take legal action through the courts or by going through an employment tribunal. Find out more about how Herries-Smith can support you through an employment tribunal.
Indirect discrimination – often harder to identify and prove, indirect discrimination is putting individuals with a protected characteristic at more risk or at a disadvantage when a provision or practise is applied to everyone. For example, a working mother can be indirectly discriminated against if all employees are required to work full time despite their other duties.
Direct discrimination – this applies to all protected characteristics. Direct discrimination means to treat someone less favourably because of a protected characteristic that they have – for example treating a woman less favourably than a man, purely because of her gender.
BUPA conducted a study in 2019 regarding menopause and found that three out of five menopausal women in. business were negatively affected in the workplace as a direct result of menopause or by facing menopause discrimination. 900,000 women in the UK left their jobs because of menopause symptoms. Whilst menopause is not a specific characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, three existing characteristics that it could fall into are age, sex and disability discrimination.
There is a growing call for businesses to adopt a menopause policy. This is not currently mandatory however if businesses are seen to be failing to support their employees who are living with menopausal symptoms, this could lead to legal risks in the employee’s favour. There are many simple things that businesses can introduce to support women who are facing menopause. Providing guidance and support, offering discussions and flagging points of contact, training other staff and promoting internal support groups are just simple elements an inclusive employer can adopt.
According to Statistica, the gender pay gap is still very much real. Gender pay gap data from 2021, shows that the difference in average hourly earnings between men and women for all workers was at 15.4%. Whilst the difference is falling, it is very clear that there is still work to be done to reduce gender pay gaps across the UK.
There are many reasons why the gender pay gap is still a very real issue across the UK, however, one of the most prevalent is that female employees who choose to have children are more likely to have to take time out of work to care for her family, whilst male employees don’t generally do this (with exceptions of course), meaning that males are more likely to climb the ladder whilst women have to sacrifice roles due to family commitments. Another reason for the gap is the stereotypical idea about women’s capabilities and skills, resulting in women being offered lesser paying administrative or clerical roles than males.
If you are facing a potential gender pay gap in your workplace and would like some legal advice about how to move forward, Herries-Smith is the local employment solicitor that can support you with breach of contracts and employment tribunals. Get in contact with Herries-Smith today.
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As a compassionate, approachable and personal Solicitor, we aim to work with women in business every step of the way to achieve an outcome you need that gives you the confidence to continue in your chosen workplace. Herries-Smith doesn’t believe in filling you with solicitor jargon that you may not understand. Instead, we aim to ensure you feel supported and confident during your legal action and that you understand what is going on at every opportunity.
If you are looking for support with legal action against your workplace, don’t hesitate to get in contact with Herries-Smith today to see how we can support you to build a more sustainable tomorrow.
Address:Catherine Herries-Smith SolicitorJubilee House, Globe Park, Third Ave, Marlow SL7 1EY