In the month of International Women’s Day, in the year of the centenary of women winning the right to vote and as a huge spotlight shines on sexual harassment in the workplace, Alison Schreiber from The HR Dept Durham urges SMEs to take action in their businesses to tackle inequality.
- Unequal pay still rampant and big companies are starting to see huge claims.
- Sexual harassment complaints on the rise.
- Maternity discrimination rife.
- There are huge benefits of being a family-friendly and flexible employer that SMEs should embrace.
Despite the Equal Pay Act in 1970 and the Equality Act 2010, women still earn less than men in Britain today. Equal pay is the right for men and women to be paid the same when doing the same, or equivalent, work. The current pay inequality means that women effectively stop earning relative to men on a day in November, known as Equal Pay Day.
There are several high profile equal pay claims taking place currently mostly in large supermarket chains, if successful there will no doubt be a trickledown effect to claims in SMEs.
Alison Schreiber of The HR Dept Durham said, “Business owners must get their house in order when it comes to equal pay. Not only is it morally wrong in 2018, it is illegal and there will be consequences if your employee’s lodge a claim.
The pay gap is not closing, it has remained the same for the last three years. Employers can conduct an equal pay review or audit to see if there is a pay gap in their business. These reviews involve comparing the pay of men and women doing the same work, identifying any pay gaps, and eliminating gaps that cannot be explained on grounds other than gender.”
Following the high-profile cases of sexual harassment in the workplace, businesses and organisations are seeing a spike in sexual harassment complaints. SMEs are not immune to this and local businesses need to prevent and tackle this behaviour head on.
Alison said, “Business owners must take sexual harassment very seriously. Your company will have a policy for handling grievances, and you should follow this. It is a fundamental employment right that no-one should suffer sexual harassment. If it occurs, and you do not handle it appropriately, your company will be exposed to the risk of financial and reputational damage, alongside the suffering of the victim.”
On maternity discrimination at work, Alison added, “It is shocking that 54,000 women are dismissed or selected for redundancy annually because of being pregnant or on maternity leave. And not only is it shocking, it is also illegal to discriminate on these grounds. The maximum award granted in 2016/17 for sex discrimination was £127,230. This is something to be avoided!
There are huge benefits of being a family-friendly and flexible employer that embraces equality, so think about creative ways you can resource your business which may allow you to attract and retain the best staff.”