Gender Equality

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…Achieving Gender Equality at Work

The UK prides itself on being a progressive culture, especially concerning the equality of its citizens. But recent studies still show that women are paid 18% less than men, with men being 40% more likely to be promoted in the workplace.

Deana Bates, Employment Law Solicitor, takes a look at just how much is being done in the UK to address equality in the workplace.

Better, But Still Not Good Enough

In 1970 the Equal Pay Act came into force, prohibiting less favourable treatment between men and women regarding pay and employment. The introduction of this act was initially a huge step in the right direction, but occupational segregation is still commonplace for women in the UK.

This dated stereotype associates a women’s’ skill set with lower paying work, roles which somehow still carry the 1940’s stigma of being ‘women’s’ work’. For example, jobs like cleaning, caring and catering to name a few.

How Does It Look Abroad?

We need only look abroad to recognise how far behind the curve the UK is with women’s rights.

Sweden for instance, recently voted 2017 best place for women to live, is considered by many to be a haven for women’s rights. While the gender pay gap is also present here, with women typically earning 87% of what men do, it is still an improvement over the UK.

The rights of women in general are a top priority in Sweden, offering subsidised parental care to pregnant women and a robust paid parental leave policy with new mothers eligible for 480 days paid leave, 390 of which offer up to 80% of their pay.

Denmark and Norway aren’t far behind, which isn’t surprising considering the Icelandic countries in general typically rank the highest concerning women’s rights. Although Denmark has small gaps between men and women in education, health and politics, it offers an earnings-related day care system. Norway, like Sweden, has its own generous maternity leave system offering 35 weeks maternity leave at full pay, or 45 weeks at 80% – a noticeable improvement over the UK’s current system.

While the Icelandic countries seem to be the trend setters, and generally the best places for women to live in 2017, Canada and the Netherlands get an honourable mention. Both rank quite well in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016, with Canada making women’s rights part of domestic and foreign policy and the Netherlands focusing on benefits for new mothers, similar to Sweden.

What Can The UK Do?

Removing the pressure placed on new mothers in work by addressing paid leave is a start. Businesses must then address their own internal processes.

The first steps to closing the pay gap and achieving equality in the work place are fairly simple on paper:

  • Have businesses make a clear decision that gender equality is a priority
  • Careful management of goals and progress within said companies.

The final step is what many consider the most difficult step to achieving gender equality: scrutinising British culture. In other words, taking a good hard look at our society and why men are rewarded by default, as opposed to taking into consideration effort and outcome.

Deana Bates Comments:

“It would a breath of fresh air to see a further development within the area of gender equality at work and looking at the countries such as Sweden and Denmark mentioned above, shows some ways in which positive changes could be made.”

“The impact such changes are likely to have on the workforce could include; increased morale and productivity- given employees would be less stressed about juggling family and work life, along with loyalty and commitment to the company – working mums are more likely to flourish in a supportive environment and see a future with a company who recognise and support the demands of family life.”

“Female employees ought to be live to the fact that it’s ok to stand up to your employer and question why, where you feel you are paid less due to your gender. “

If you feel like you’ve been a victim of the gender pay gap – regardless of your gender – and are considering making an Equal Pay Claim, Simpson Millar offers a range of Employment Legal Services. On the flip side, Simpson Millar also offers advice to Employers on how to address a gender pay gap within your organisation and or looking at equality amongst the workforce more generally.

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