8 March 2022 marks International Women’s Day, it’s a day to celebrate the achievements of women across the globe but more importantly it also highlights the issues which women still face within the workplace. In recent years there has been a significant shift in society and there have been conscious efforts to tackle these. However, it’s clear that more needs to be done.
Given the greater awareness of International Women’s Day, employers should take this opportunity to evaluate what more they could do to support women and ensure a diverse and inclusive workforce. It is a fact that diverse workforces outperform their competitors; a diverse workforce increases performance, output, and profits. In these turbulent times it is also imperative to ensure that employers are retaining their female talent as well as being able to recruit and attract top talent to support growth and success in the long term.
As a result of the pandemic more employers have embraced hybrid working models and are allowing staff more flexibility with regard to their working hours. Flexible working can be an important tool to, amongst other things, support employees (often women o a greater extent) with childcare responsibilities. Employers may wish to review their current working practices and determine whether they could accommodate a more hybrid working model or allow employees greater flexibility with regard to their working hours. Young workers joining the workforce are also now more focussed on their wellbeing than ever before and will be looking for roles that allow greater flexibility and it can therefore be a useful recruitment tool.
If employers are unable to support a more flexible model, they could instead look at their wellbeing offers to ensure there are tools available to their workforce to utilise to make them feel valued.
Gender Pay Gap & Equal Pay
The recent pandemic identified that there is still work to be done in addressing the Gender Pay Gap. In March 2021 the House of Commons reported that more women than men were furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, likely because women were more likely to be working a sector that had been shut down by the pandemic or were more likely to be responsible for childcare. In total, 2.32 million women were furloughed as of January 2021, which accounted for around 57% of those furloughed.
In addition, it was also recently reported by the ONS that the Gender Pay Gap stood at 7.9% in April 2021 with female employees earning a median weekly pay of £543 pay against a male median weekly pay of £619. Whilst there has been movement to reduce the gap in recent years and the 2021 figure may have been impacted by furlough, it’s clear that there is still some way to go.
Whilst Gender Pay Gap reporting is an important tool to allow employers to reflect on the diversity of their workforce, employers also need to be proactive and to look to tackle any worrying patterns. Women are often underrepresented in more senior roles, which reduces diversity and reduces women’s voices with the business. Whilst there is not one solution, employers can look to a number of different practices to improve their Gender Pay Gap including but not limited to; flexible working arrangements, reviewing internal pay and progression structures and increasing transparency and tackling unconscious gender bias.
It is also anticipated that the Government will introduce further protections for workers from sexual harassment at work. The Government are looking to introduce a duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment and new protections from third-party harassment.
Employers may wish to consider their harassment policies and procedures as a priority in readiness for the upcoming legislative changes and to look to train their workforce to raise awareness. According to the Government’s consultation, around 54% of people reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment. It is therefore clear that sexual harassment is still a worrying problem in the workplace and that this predominantly affects women, although the impact of sexual harassment on men should obviously also form part of any training and strategy. Tackling sexual harassment will minimise the risk to employers as well as creating a safer and more positive work environment and culture for workers.
We recently released an article on how menopause impacts women’s ability to succeed or stay in the workplace and what more employers can do to support women who are experiencing symptoms of menopause.
It’s important that employers help tackle the taboo of menopause, to create a safe and supportive place for women to speak out. Employers may also look to introduce a policy to sign-post staff to help and provide assurance as to how they will be supported.
On International Women’s Day it is important that we celebrate how far we’ve come in relation to women in the workplace and women’s rights but also appreciate how far there still is to go.