Valerie Bond
Posted on 24 Mar 2022

Gender Equality and Diversity - What should Employers be doing?

As we reach the end of Women's History Month and the International Women's Day publicity starts to fade, this article explores what employers can be doing throughout the year to ensure that they maintain gender equality and diversity standards.

How can Employers reduce the Gender Pay Gap?

Following the Gender Pay Gap Bot on Twitter outing the continuing pay gap in many businesses, employers will be looking to ensure that they are not at risk of such public exposure in the future.

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average (mean or median) earnings of men and women across a workforce and is usually shown as a figure representing women's pay as a percentage of that received by men. The Office for National Statistics reported that, in 2021, the gender pay gap was at 7.9% among full-time employees only, and 15.4% among all employees, whatever their working pattern, down from 9% and 17.4% respectively in 2019.

The Behaviour Insights Team previously issued guidance on Reducing the Gender Pay Gap and Improving Gender Equality in Organisations. Its recommendations include:

  • Encouraging salary negotiation by showing salary ranges.
  • Introducing transparency to promotion, pay and reward processes.
  • Appointing diversity managers and / or diversity task forces.
  • Improving Workplace flexibility for men and women.
  • Encouraging the uptake of Shared Parental Leave.
  • Providing diversity training.

Gender Disparities with Workplace Carers

Business in the Community recently published a report, titled "Who Cares?" which aimed to "better understand contemporary experiences and attitudes around combining paid work and care, and to enable employers to more effectively support working carers".

The Report found that 44% of the UK workforce are combining paid work with care at any one time, with the majority of them caring for children under the age of 18. Most notably, the Report found that 58% of women said that their caring responsibilities have prevented them from applying for a job or promotion, compared to only 20% of men. Whilst most of the respondents to the survey believe that caring responsibilities should be shared equally, regardless of gender, it appears that this is not accurately reflected in practice.

Business in the Community has set out a number of recommendations for employers to try to reduce the disparities in how carers are affected at work:

  • Consider caring the norm, not the exception.
  • Champion equitable access to care for all genders, men and women, in your policies.
  • Foster a culture that supports men to care.
  • Promote flexible working directly to men.

By encouraging men to work flexibly and allowing them to take time to care for dependents, employers can positively support all members of staff, regardless of their gender or caring responsibilities.

Menopause

Recently, menopause and its effects on women in the workplace has become a prevalent topic for many businesses. The Women and Equalities Committee has recently found in its Menopause and the Workplace Survey, that almost a third of women miss work due to menopause symptoms. As a result of this finding, businesses are being called to better support those experiencing symptoms by providing adjustments where relevant.

Tegan Osborne-Brown's previous article, Menopause as a Disability: Employment Tribunal Practice and Procedure, considers what employers can do to address menopause in the workplace. In particular, it is suggested that employers consider:

  • Implementing flexible working to include comfort breaks throughout the day;
  • Providing greater support from line management;
  • Maintaining a clear and up to date policy on menopause;
  • Ensuring easy access to facilities; and
  • Implementing reasonable adjustments where there is a negative impact on the employee's working life.

As well as this, some employers may find it beneficial to implement training for staff to ensure that they are aware of the impacts menopause can have and what they can do to support their staff and colleagues.

What is the take home for employers?

Employers should consider what policies and procedures they already have in place to tackle gender disparities in the workplace and what scope there is for improving these. Where possible employers should engage with their staff to ensure that they are supporting them in the best ways possible.