International Women’s Day 2016 #IWD2016
It’s International Women’s Day 2016 and Fiona Martin, employment law solicitor in Brighton and expert in workplace discrimination, highlights some of the issues women face in the workplace today.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission reported in July 2015 that the equivalent of 54,000 women may be forced out of their jobs in Britain each year due to pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
Today our firm has already received three new enquiries from women who are experiencing maternity discrimination. Unfortunately, over the last 10 years we have seen this type of discrimination increase and this is still the largest form of inequality that my law firm deals with.
It is ironic that at a time when David Cameron is pledging to make the UK’s workplaces more “family friendly”, women are bearing the brunt of unfair and discriminatory practices.
Many of our cases involve women finding out on trying to return from maternity leave that their job is no longer required, usually because their role has been given away.
Women are also still being sacked on announcing their pregnancy. This is because employers are confused about their worker’s rights. Many believe that because those women have less than two years’ service, they are not able to bring unfair dismissal or discrimination claims, and so they believe they can get away with this.
What they fail to appreciate is that all workers have the right not to be discriminated against and there is no qualifying period for protection.
Another legal issue our firm deals with is Equal Pay – or the lack of it.
Pay differences have become increasingly harder to establish since the government removed the formal Equal Pay Questionnaire regime. Women now find it even more difficult to prove they are being paid less than men as they are not entitled to receive information about their male counterparts’ pay.
And then we get to plain old sex discrimination and “the glass ceiling”.
You may have noticed us sending out tweets and posts about the #WomenCalledJohn campaign. Apparently there are fewer women leading FTSE firms, than men called John!
So do women have anything at all to celebrate on International Women’s Day?
It seems to be swings and roundabouts. For example, more women are qualifying as solicitors, but the shortage of grants means that working class women are discouraged.
We also heard yesterday in the Law Gazette that recent statistics show that only 20% of women are partners at the top 20 UK law firms. Again, this is likely to be because women still predominantly take career breaks to raise their families.
So, even if women escape being unfairly dismissed for taking maternity leave, they often lose their place on the career ladder.
So is there anything to celebrate? Not very much – although I am allowed to wear trousers in Court, which I wasn’t when I first qualified!