In the last five decades, gender equality has undoubtedly transformed the British society. With reference to the workplace, there are no longer jobs that are specific to women or men. Through rigorous sensitizations, legal formulations and amendments, and restructuring, the previously highly skewed in favor of men gender has been changed and the concept of gender equity well adopted and accepted in the workplace (CEDAW 2011). This essay therefore supports the statement that in the United Kingdom (UK), men and women are treated equally in the workplace. This will be evidenced through discussion of the current status of the UK workplace in terms of gender equality, and the legal framework that regulated workplace equality and gender equality in general.
Treatment of men and women in the UK workplace
In the recent generations, the lives of women in the UK have changed dramatically as they are playing an increasingly active role in not only the workplace, but also in workplace decision making, in politics, and in public life. The UK has more women in the workplace than ever before as official figures presented by Degan (2014) show that by 2014, a record-breaking 14 million women had jobs. Female employment reached 67.2% in 2014, the highest of the records made by the National Statistics Office (Allen 2014)). During the same period, the median weekly pay for mean was at £508 a rise from £502 while the media pay for women was at £411 a fall from £413 the previous year. This means there is a pay gap between women and men of £97 a week (Degan 2014).
As argued by Degan (2014), this pay gap is as a result of the fact that majority of the women in employment classify them as self-employed. Self employment category is described as being one that requires putting in large number of very long hours for comparatively little financial returns. The number of women in the UK classified as self-employed in 2014 was at 1,357 million a rise of 5.5 percent from the 2012 statistics. Among the percentage in employment, 28 percent of these have young children under the age of five years thus are able to combine paid work with their family responsibilities. In a general outlook, women are involved in executive positions in the corporate world, even though as argued by Sonofra (2013), there number of women in company leadership positions is lower compared to that of men, due to other contributing factors.
In the UK rural areas, women employment rates are higher than in the urban areas. In rural areas, the employment rate for women in the working age bracket was at 74% in 2011 compared to that of men at 81%. This is England, the employment rate for women in rural areas stood at 69% with that of men at 76% while in Scotland, women employment in the rural areas was 75%, for the accessible rural areas was at 76% compared to 84% in both remote and accessible rural areas and at 74% in the rest of the Scotland (CEDAW 2011).
Workplace equality legal framework
The primary guarantee for workplace equality for both men and women is through law. The UK government implemented majority of the legal provision through the Equality Act on October 2010 (CEDAW 2011). The Equality act brings together and consolidates anti-discrimination law which had existed previously in Britain, among them the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 and the Equal Pay Act of 1970. The Equality Pay Act prohibited both direct and indirect discrimination, victimization, harassment, or other forms of conducts except where legally permitted. The law protects employees from discrimination on the basis of ‘protected characteristics’ which include age, sex, gender, disability, civil partnership or marriage, race, religion, and sex and sexual orientation. The government doesn’t consider that the Equality Act should incorporate all the provision of the Convections as such would render it disproportionate on the basis of gender as to give women more rights than other. The approach of the UK government is to implement equality through a mix of legal and administration measures.
In addition, the Equality Act has a new integrated Public Sector Equality Duty (the Equality Duty) whose duty is to bring together previous Gender Equality Duty, Race and Disability Duties, and extend to cover the ‘protected characteristics’. The Equality Duty became operational in April 2011 (Allen 2014; CEDAW 2011) and it prohibits pay secrecy clauses thus allow for open discussion of pay among employees to determine if there is discrimination. The Equality Duty requires public bodies to; have due regard in the process of eliminating unlawful discrimination and/or harassment based on gender under the Equality Act; foster relations between men and women; and advance equality opportunities between women and men.
The realization of workplace equality is impossible if other related elements of the society are not addressed among them, childcare and family responsibilities. The reason why most women are discriminated in the workplace is not because they aren’t suited skill wise for the opportunity, but because they are unable to commit fully to the opportunity due to other, mainly family related commitments. This is furthered by the fact that, for a company, the aim is to boost profits through optimal working hours among others, which for example, nursing mothers cannot offer. To circumvent these and ensure a level playing ground for both men and women in the workplace, the UK has also instituted favorable laws to this effect (Parliament UK 2013).
Family-friendly employment policies
For women and men to access work opportunities, they ought to be appropriately trained, as such, this is evident in UK universities where gender parity in university administrations is a reality (CEDAW, 2011). In addition, the traditional model of the family has been shaken up and modern attitudes and working styles dominate families. In fact, in the UK, 10% of the families have stay-at-home fathers whose spouses are working, and 20% of board members of 350 companies in the Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) are women.
The UK government’s efforts towards ensuring equity for both mothers and fathers in the workplace are evident through the Work and Families Act of 2006 and other legislations. Through the right to request flexible work provision, parents with children aged up to and including 16 years old, parents with disabled children aged less than 18 years, and carers of adults as stipulated under the provision (Parliament UK 2013). UK’s Statutory Maternity Leave is one year with Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance paid for 39 months. Fathers on the other hand have two weeks ‘Ordinary Paternity Leave’ from when their children are born and up to 26 weeks.
In terms of childcare, the government is working hand in hand with early education and childcare to create a long term early years program based on policy statement with particular emphasis on early interventions for supporting disadvantaged children and families to allow mothers return to work comfortably (Parliament UK 2013).
Despite the above effort and achievement towards equality on the workplace, there are still some impediments towards realization of comprehensive equality. This is due to such factors like employees preference for male executives because as argued by Sonofra (2013), female executives are hard to work with.
Workplace equality in the UK is a reality. Statistics points to the fact that, women are partaking in employment actively and even though they don’t have numbers equivalent to those of men, the workplace is highly accommodating for both men and women. This has been as a result of institution of the relevant legislation among them, the Equality Act, the Equality Duty, and other family related legislation including the Right to flexible employment, and sufficient maternity and paternity leave. These laws plus the current situation in the UK workplace serve to confirm that ‘In the United Kingdom, men and women are treated equally in the workplace.’
Allen K, (2014). UK climbs women-in-work rankings. The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2016 from http://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2015/mar/03/uk-climbs-women-in-work-rankings
Dugan E, (2014). Number of women in work in Britain hits record high – but figures show the gender pay gap is growing too, Independent. Retrieved 29 April 2016 from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/more-women-have-jobs-in-britain-than-ever-before-but-figures-show-the-gender-pay-gap-is-rising-too-9139154.html
Parliament UK, (2013).Women in the Workplace: Written evidence submitted by Dr Sue Johnson. Retrieved 29 April 2016 from http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmbis/writev/womeninworkplace/m98.htm
Sonofra T, (2013). Don’t Work For A Female Boss. Return of Kings. Retrieved 28 April 2016 from http://www.returnofkings.com/17995/dont-work-for-a-female-boss
United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), (2011). United Kingdom’s seventh periodic. Retrieved 28 April 2016 from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/85456/7th-cedaw-report.pdf