Government Reforms (1):  Tackling Gender Inequality  & Workplace Sexual Harassment Consultation

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1. Tackling Gender Inequality

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) has published Gender equality at every stage: a roadmap for change (available here), which sets out the Government’s proposals to tackle key drivers of gender inequality.

The key proposals to tackle gender inequality include:

1.1 Strengthening equality legislation

  • A consultation on the effectiveness of workplace sexual harassment legislation, including whether to extend the three-month time limit for bringing discrimination and harassment Tribunal claims (see below Consultation – sexual harassment in the workplace).
  • Technical guidance by the Equality and Human Rights Commission on sexual harassment and harassment at work (to be published later this year) which will form the basis of a statutory code of conduct.
  • A review of the enforcement of equal pay legislation to maximise its efficiency.
  • The publication of a Gender Equality Monitor to monitor issues relating to gender equality.
  • The setting up of a collaborative taskforce of employers and other bodies to tackle the workplace culture which breeds pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

1.2 Closing the Gender Pay Gap

  • A review of the gender pay gap reporting metrics to assess how effective they are, as well as considering what additional information should be provided by employers to increase transparency about the steps they are taking to support gender equality.
  • A national campaign to provide employers with the tools to help employees balance work and care and to support progression in the workplace. Updated Government guidance will be published later this year, along with implementation guides for HR on tackling gender inequality.

1.3 Review of shared parental leave and pay scheme

  • The effectiveness of the shared parental leave and pay schemes is currently under review and should be completed by the end of 2019.
  • The Government will consult on increasing the transparency of organisations’ parental leave and pay policies and on improving the availability of flexible working in job adverts.

1.4 Employment rights for carers

  • The Government confirms its manifesto commitment to launch a consultation on a new right to carers’ leave, although no time-frame is given.

1.5 Pensions equalisation

  • The Government plans to monitor the impact of equalising participation rates in workplace pension schemes to tackle the structural inequalities that lead to the private pensions gap.

 

2. Consultation – Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) has published a consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace (available here).  The consultation explores the existing protections for workers and how these could potentially be strengthened.

The GEO have split the consultation into two parts:

  • a set of online questions that aim to be quick and easy for anyone to respond to; and
  • a technical document that invites views on the details of the law.

The technical consultation focuses on the details of the legal system, whereas the online questions invite the views and experiences of members of the public, to help the Government understand people’s lived reality of the technical issues. The consultation explains that anyone is welcome to contribute to either or both processes, but as a general rule it is recommended that members of the public engage with the public consultation, and that organisations respond to the technical consultation.

Overall, the consultation asks for views on the following:

  • evidence for the introduction of a mandatory duty on employers to protect workers from harassment and victimisation in the workplace, enforceable both by individuals and the Equality Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and breach of which could potentially lead to a financial penalty;
  • how best to strengthen and clarify the laws in relation to third party harassment (i.e. by clients, customers and people outside the organisation).
  • evidence for extending Employment Tribunal time limits in the Equality Act from the existing three months;
  • whether volunteers and interns are adequately protected by the Equality Act; and
  • non-legislative interventions to prevent sexual harassment or, where it has occurred, to stop it from happening again.

The consultation also confirms that work is underway to introduce a statutory Code of Practice on sexual harassment and harassment at work on which there will be separate consultation. The EHRC will release technical guidance later this year which will form the basis of the Code of Practice.

The consultation closes on 2 October 2019.