The legal system is failing women in the workplace and needs fundamental reform, says a new report.
The report, published by the Fawcett Society’s Sex Discrimination Law Review (SDLR) Panel, found that half of all women experience sexual harassment at work
The SDLR calls for a number of changes. These include: strengthening the laws on sexual harassment at work to protect women from harassment by third parties such as customers, service users or contractors; making ‘up-skirting’ an offence; and extending protection from pregnancy discrimination to six months after maternity leave ends.
The panel also recommends that more responsibility is placed onto the employer to be proactive. It suggests introducing a new duty on large organisations to prevent discrimination and harassment in their workplaces
Dame Laura Cox DBE, a retired High Court Justice and Chair of the SDLR says: “There is a powerful case for change, to ensure that our sex equality laws are fulfilling their purpose, that employers do more to prevent sex discrimination in the first place, and that working women have access to justice to enforce their rights where they need to.”
Progress on closing the pay gap has stalled, according to the SDLR and ‘a lack of transparency’ prevents women from challenging unequal pay and legal cases, which can take many years to resolve.
It points to research that says 54,000 pregnant women and working mothers leave their job early each year due to pressure but just one per cent of cases go to tribunal.
To address some of these issues, the SDLR recommends that gender pay gap reporting is extended to employers with 50 employees or more. It also wants to see employers include data on other protected characteristics such as race, disability and LGBT status (with due consideration to privacy); a reform of the parental leave system, and legislation to address multiple discrimination – it points to the examples of Canada or Germany.