8 Top Tips for Guarding Against Indirect Sex Discrimination at Work

11th November 2016

shutterstock-228743818-300x200Guarding against sex discrimination at work is not just a matter of avoiding obvious pitfalls, such as advertising for a “Girl Friday”. There are also many types of indirect discrimination to be avoided. As leading providers of time and attendance employee software, here we look at how to ensure you do not lay yourself open to damaging discrimination claims, together with all the resulting ill feeling and bad publicity.

The continuing gender gap has recently been highlighted in a series of reports. One revealed that 40% more men than women gain promotion in management roles, while another showed how the number of pregnant women and new mothers forced to leave their jobs has nearly doubled over the last 11 years. With this in mind, how can you ensure your company creates a level playing field for both men and women?

  1. Flexible Working – Availability of part-time or flexible working is important for many women, often those with young children or other caring responsibilities. Refusing to consider requests could constitute discrimination. However, employers should not fall into the trap of reverse discrimination, by assuming that women are always the people who require flexible working patterns and ignoring applications by men, or by employees of either sex without children.
  2. Recruitment – There are obvious direct discrimination factors which must always be considered when recruiting. However, indirect discrimination can go beyond this, for instance, if you only advertise on websites or within publications which are typically read by one sex. During the interview process, questions should not be asked about whether candidates have any children or are planning families. This whole area can be something of a minefield, and it is helpful if you have recruitment software which assists with equal opportunities reporting.
  3. Promotion – The Chartered Management Institute recently carried out a survey which showed that male employees working in management roles are 40% more likely to win promotions than women managers. This could be partly because men are traditionally more likely to put themselves forward for promotion, whereas women may be reluctant to do so even if they are equally qualified. It can help if businesses invest in leadership courses for women, and also arrange for senior managers to act as sponsors or mentors to candidates of both sexes.
  4. Pay Levels – Awareness of the UK’s gender pay gap has risen recently and there will soon be requirements for companies to calculate the difference in pay within their organisation. They will need to start preparing the data from April 2017 and publish the information from 2018. HR teams can help to narrow the existing gap by drawing up plans to promote equality and monitoring progress.
  5. Working Hours – Businesses need to try to get away from the old “macho” style culture where important meetings and team bonding sessions are often held out of hours. This can include socialising after work or holding early-morning meetings, before the official start of the working day. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recently came under fire after criticising after-work drinks, as it was claimed he assumed only women were responsible for childcare. However, this controversy did highlight concerns that a culture of socialising outside office hours can marginalise parents and others who can’t stay late, often because of caring responsibilities.
  6. Maternity Issues – Recent research by the Women and Equalities Committee found that many women are being forced to leave their jobs after becoming pregnant. Numbers of new and expectant mothers affected had almost doubled compared to figures a decade earlier. Companies need to try not only to obey the letter of the law over maternity rights and leave, but also to create a supportive environment. For instance, this means avoiding negative comments over childcare arrangements and ensuring mothers do not feel they are being sidelined.
  7. Training – To ensure equality of opportunity, it is important to make training available to both sexes. In practice, this may often mean ensuring that part-time workers, more of whom tend to be women, do not miss out on training and career development sessions. Flexibility in terms of scheduling can again play a key role here.
  8. Dress Codes – Concern has grown recently over some dress codes discriminating against women. A Parliamentary inquiry was sparked after more than 150,000 people signed a petition after one temporary worker was sent home because she refused to wear high heels, because she found them uncomfortable and impractical. While employers can lay down different dress standards for their male and female employees, they do need to ensure that the rules are fair to both genders.

Are you looking for flexible HR and time and attendance employee software which will help you to guard against both direct and indirect discrimination? Our Amity mobile HR & payroll software is ideally suited for this, since its functionality enables equality reporting and monitoring. This can help HR staff to ensure that all the right steps are being taken to narrow the gender gap within an organisation. Click here for more information about Amity.