Law

The end of inequality – is it nigh? 

Collingwood Legal associate solicitor, Jane Sinnamon, examines some of the deeper issues around what it means to be a woman in work in 2017

Working in a law firm specialising in employment law, I am at the forefront of learning about new Government laws and proposals that are focused on improving and achieving equality in the workplace.

As far as I am aware, I work in a company that does not treat women any differently to men. This could be because the majority of the team at Collingwood Legal are female! But I do regularly see evidence of inequality and discrimination in the work that we do.

In order to achieve equality in employment, the Government has most recently introduced the Gender Pay Gap Information Regulations, which took effect in April 2017. The intention of this legislation is to remove the pay gap between men and women. It was introduced on the basis that evidence demonstrates men earn more than their female equivalent.

Some would argue that the recent publication by the BBC of its top-earners demonstrates inequality in pay between males and females. Others may argue that any differentiation between these salaries is based more on the expertise of the particular individual, their popularity with the public, and the volume of work they undertake for the BBC, rather than their gender. For instance, Matt Baker earns approximately £500,000. His One Show co-host, Alex Jones, earns approximately £450,000. However, Matt also appears on Country File and other programmes, when Alex does not. Therefore, these figures, regardless of gender, may be reasonable, or justifiable. On the other hand, Fiona Bruce, earns approximately £350,000, while her BBC News colleague, Huw Edwards, earns approximately £550,000, yet, Fiona Bruce appears on other programmes, such as Antiques Roadshow and Fake or Fortune. Is this a fair reflection of individuals being rewarded for experience and expertise regardless of gender, or evidence of gender inequality?

What the BBC figures actually demonstrate, more worryingly, is that only one-third of the 96 top-earners are female. This lack of female representation is supported by a report undertaken by Glassdoor Economic Research, that suggests Britain has one of the worst records on gender equality at work, when taking into account board level representation, and the gap between male and female employment, as well as pay.

The Government’s intention to remove the gender pay gap in employment (along with other equality and anti-discriminatory legislation), is admirable, but it does not, in itself, address the source of inequality. One recent example of this is the footwear retailer Clarks releasing a girl’s shoe earlier this year called ‘Dolly Babe’ along with the boy’s equivalent which was called ‘Leader’. Although Clarks have apologised, differentiating between boys and girls in this way, and at such a young age, demonstrates the challenges society faces in achieving equality, well before men and women enter the workplace.

It is, however, an issue that society is aware of and, more importantly, talking about. I, therefore, have high hopes that inequality will be eradicated, but it is dependent on a change in mindset that may not happen in our generation.

Collingwood Legal
If you are covered by gender pay reporting and/or require advice on achieving a more equal workplace through flexible working practices and procedures aimed at promoting equality, contact Jane on 0191 282 2884 or jane.sinnamon@collingwoodlegal.com
www.collingwoodlegal.com
@CWoodLegal

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