This week, in support of the upcoming International Women’s Day, we joined the Law Society’s Solicitor Chat on Twitter about gender equality in the workplace. If you didn’t follow the chat, here’s a summary of our answers to the questions.

1. What is the Equality Act 2010, and how does it impact the workplace?

The Equality Act 2010 intends to promote equality and protect individuals from unfair treatment, irrespective of their race, gender, sex, age, disability, religion/belief, marriage/civil relationship, pregnancy/maternity or sexual orientation. It replaced the previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act.

Within the workplace, it aims to improve equal job opportunities and fairness for all employees and job applicants.

2. What is classed as gender discrimination? What are the differences between direct and indirect discrimination?

Gender discrimination is when you are treated differently or unfairly because of your gender.

Direct discrimination is when, because of your gender, someone treats you worse than someone of the opposite sex who is in a similar situation. For example, a job advertisement for a waiter (as opposed to waiting staff), giving the impression that the job is only open to men.

Indirect discrimination is when an organisation has a policy or way of working that applies in the same way to both sexes, but which puts you at a disadvantage because of your gender. For example, where an employer decides to change shift patterns for staff so that they finish at 5pm instead of 3pm. Female employees with caring responsibilities could be at a disadvantage if the new shift pattern means they cannot collect their children from school or childcare. Indirect sex discrimination can be permitted if the organisation or employer is able to show that there is a good reason for the policy. This is known as ‘’objective justification.’’

Harassment and victimisation are also types/forms of sex discrimination.

3. If you believe that you’ve been discriminated against in your workplace because of your gender, what can you do?

There are a number of things you can do if you feel you have suffered in your workplace because of your gender. These include:

  • Writing everything down and keep a note of everything that has been happening;
  • Talking to your manager and checking your employer’s policy on gender discrimination and the procedure in place;
  • Report your concerns to HR;
  • Following the grievance process with your employer. Put your grievance in writing;
  • Inform your Union if you have one;
  • Speak to ACAS if you need further help; and
  • Speak to a solicitor.

4.  What are the main things employers can do to build a gender equal workplace?

There are a number of steps employers can take, including:

  • Close the gender pay gap;
  • Promote a healthy work – life balance;
  • Promote shared parental leave;
  • Strict and effective policies in place dealing with harassment and victimisation so that it can be stopped immediately;
  • Make sure the recruitment process is transparent and consistent;
  • Make mentors available for everyone;
  • Consider leadership roles for both men and women in the workplace; and
  • Creating and reinforcing an open-minded atmosphere.

Our employment team acts for both employers and employees. If you have a concern about gender equality in your workplace, call us on 0800 988 7756 for a FREE initial discussion.