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International Women’s Day 2017 – #BeBoldForChange

By Practice Group Leader, Employment

In the wake of International Women’s Day urging us to be bold for change, employment lawyer Paula Chan analyses workplace hot topics featuring on her agenda for change in 2017.

Be Bold For…Closing the Gap

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average pay of men and of women, which according to the Office of National Statistics currently stands at 18.1 per cent. The World Economic Forum predicts that the gender pay gap will not close entirely until 2186.

2017 marks the arrival of gender pay gap reporting regulations. The regulations require employers with 250 or more employees to publish information relating to the average pay of women and men and disclose their gender pay gap.

Whilst putting the gap on the map should be celebrated, an opportunity for change has been missed because there are no sanctions for non-compliance, and no requirement to take positive steps to close the gap.

Read more: Is The Gender Pay Gap Here to Stay?

Employers should not rest on their laurels. Non-compliant employers face the risk of being named and shamed, having employee relations issues, and losing their best talent to employers adopting a more transparent approach.

Even though there aren’t sanctions for non-compliance, the regulations may just be the catalyst for a shift in culture which sees employers taking the initiative to close the gap without being forced or even asked to, making their workplace a better and brighter place.

Be Bold For...Pregnancy And Maternity Rights

Earlier this year a call was made for urgent action by the Women and Equalities Committee to give pregnant women and new mothers more protection. They reported that the number of expectant and new mothers forced to leave their job has doubled over the past decade to 54,000, with many being dismissed, singled out or forced out of their job.

The Women and Equalities Committee pressed ministers to publish an ambitious plan within the next two years to improve the working rights of pregnant women and new mothers. They called for a law, similar to one in Germany, which prevents pregnant employees being made redundant except in extremely rare cases.

Read more: Proposed Six Months Protection From Redundancy For New Mums

They also called for the three month employment tribunal time limit for pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims to be doubled to six months, allowing new mothers to spend time with their new baby without trying to meet an already challenging three month tribunal deadline.

Women shouldn’t continue to pay the motherhood penalty. Urgent action is well overdue. 

Be Bold For…Eradicating Harassment And Gender Stereotypes

Recent research carried out by the Trade Union Congress found that more than half of women say they have experienced sexual harassment at work, including unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature, comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes, and unwanted touching.

Harassment and bullying have no place in the modern workplace. It’s not office banter and it shouldn’t be tolerated.

Be Bold For…Speaking up

Nicola Thorp put sexism on the map when she started a petition after being sent home unpaid for refusing to wear high heels.

Read more: The Most High Profile Dress Code Discrimination Cases

It takes just one brave individual to make a big difference for many and to start a trend of change. If you feel you suffer sex discrimination at work, are being unfairly treated, or witness unfair treatment, then it’s time to speak up or support others who do.

You are protected in law against being victimised because you raised a concern about discrimination or harassment, or assist others to do so.  

We celebrate the International Women’s Day appeal to be bold. As well as being bold for change, we are ready to be bold for closing the gap, for maternity and pregnancy rights and for eradicating harassment and sexism. And finally, we are ready to speak up.

Are you?

Paula Chan is an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

If you have been treated unfairly at work or have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog contact the employment solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online and we will be happy to help.

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