Coinciding with the centenary year of the first women’s suffrage legislation, the Fawcett Review has published a landmark review – the “Sex Discrimination Law Review” – which, in the wake of the Brexit referendum decision, poses the question “is sex discrimination law in the UK fit for purpose?”.
The Review suggests that whilst much progress has been made towards gender equality in the last 100 years, there is still much work to be done. It states that “the gender pay gap remains stubborn, violence against women and girls is endemic, and access to justice is limited”.
The Review was published on 23 January 2018.
The Review assesses equality law in the UK today under a number of different chapters, including: Brexit, women in the workplace, violence against women and girls, promoting equality, access to justice, multiple discrimination and see equality in Northern Ireland. It makes a number of key recommendations for changes to our legal system, including:
- Limiting the use of ministerial powers conferred by the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill so that the powers cannot be used to substantively amend employment law in the UK, which the Review says would disproportionately impact women workers.
- Ensuring Brexit does not result in the dilution of existing equality and human rights law in the UK.
- Introducing civil penalties for non-compliance with gender pay gap reporting.
- Progressively amending Gender Pay Gap Reporting Regulations so that by 2020 the threshold is lowered to workplaces with over 50 employees.
- Extending protection from dismissal due to pregnancy and maternity discrimination to cover the period of six months after a mother returns to work.
- Increasing the time limit for all discrimination and harassment claims linked to pregnancy and maternity to six months.
- Reintroducing section 40 of the Equality Act 2010 to guarantee legal protection against harassment from third parties.
- Fees for employment tribunals must not be reintroduced.
- Amending the Equality Act 2010 to include a multiple discrimination provision in respect of direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation for all of the protected characteristics.
The full impact of the Review remains to be seen. However, if any of the recommendations are taken forward these are likely to have a significant impact on your business. We will keep you updated on any further progress and reaction.