With sex discrimination issues appearing continuously in the media, and the imminent deadline for the publication of gender pay gap reports by larger UK companies, the Fawcett Society has published a timely review looking at sex discrimination law in the UK. The full review is available here and focuses on the law as it relates to Brexit, women in the workplace, violence against women and girls, promoting equality, and access to justice. As well as evaluating the law as it stands, the review also makes recommendations as to potential future directions of travel.
Key recommendations in relation to employment law
- Reintroducing employee protections against harassment from third parties.
- Introducing a statutory right to reasonable time off and facilities for breastfeeding.
- Making statutory maternity, paternity and shared parental pay ‘Day 1’ rights, and increasing their value so they are paid at the equivalent of Real Living Wage based on a 36-hour week.
- Extending paternity leave to six weeks, paid at 90% of earnings and available any time in the year after birth.
- Extending protection for maternity discrimination to last for six months after a period of maternity or parental leave.
- Introducing a Code of Practice for work place dress codes to cover dress code requirements placed on women that are unlikely to be applicable to men (for example high heels).
- Reintroduction of Equal Pay Questionnaires, and a focus on equal pay in Employment Tribunal actions, including requiring Employment Tribunals to order equal pay audits where any finding is made of unequal pay or discrimination.
- Introduction of equal pay audits to be published every three years by employers with more than 250 employees and made publically available.
Focus on gender pay gap reports
The review also makes a number of recommendations in relation to Gender Pay Gap Reporting (GPGR). From April 2018, employers with 250+ employees must publish details of their gender pay gap.
The authors of the review have recommended progressively lowering the reporting threshold so that by 2020 the obligation falls on employers with more than 50 employees. In addition, they believe that the government should extend the requirements so that the pay gap is also broken down by age, disability, ethnicity, sexuality, and part-time status.
The review notes that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should be given powers to enforce the GPGR. This is interesting given that the EHRC’s current position is that they already have such enforcement powers, and are consulting on proposals for taking enforcement action against companies who do not comply.
Whether the recommendations of the Fawcett Society will be implemented remains to be seen, but in light of the recent media focus on gender equality at work and elsewhere, they are an interesting indication of some of the ways in which policy could develop.