(Boardroom) Votes for Women

My colleague Eoin recently penned the following article on the Government’s plan for tackling discrimination in the workplace: 

In his speech at this year’s party conference, David Cameron pledged to spend his second term addressing what he referred to as deep social problems, including, “the brick wall of blocked opportunity.”  And this was even before Suffragettes was released.  Despite some journalistic cynicism, this been followed by a number of announcements of which Meryll Streep might approve.   

The first relates to Equal Pay.  At the moment companies with over 250 staff have to publish annual reports on pay for men and women.  From this year, this will have to include information about bonuses too, not just normal salaries.  Recent tribunal cases and news reports have suggested that sexism is rampant in the City, and that large bonuses are doled out each year on the basis of very subjective judgments.  That may now begin to change. 

The fact of having to produce such figures is having and will continue to have an effect on decision making, and effectively forces large organisations to justify their approach to themselves and their staff.  It may also be helpful evidence for those claiming equal pay in an employment tribunal and builds on a legal change last October requiring employment tribunals to order an employer who loses an equal pay claim – regardless of size - to carry out an equal pay audit and publish the results on its website. 

The new rules are also extended to the public sector for the first time, and so will bring schools, universities, hospitals and many more bodies into the frame.  Here they will no doubt be particularly anxious to ensure that there is no residual pay gap if at all possible. 

Recently, David Cameron went further and pledged government support to a scheme aimed at ending what he calls “disgraceful” discrimination – where recruiters reject CVs based purely on reading the names of applicants.  This is a phenomenon commonly seen by employment lawyers, although more usually in cases of racial difference, whereby identical CVs are submitted in names of, for example, a traditional British name and one suggesting an Asian or African background.  This obvious ploy is surprisingly successful, with many more of the British candidates being called for interview.   

Finally, Equality Minister Nicky Morgan has announced that measures will be taken to eliminate all-male boards in the FTSE 350.  Although UK organisations recently hit Lord Davies’ 25 per cent target for women on boards he is now preparing his final report which will include recommendations for achieving gender equality in the workplace.   

Wolferstans can perhaps be excused a little smugness on this score, with an almost equal balance of men and women around the partnership table, a female Managing Partner, and five out of six female Heads of Department.

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