The six most important ways to support women in the workplace in 2022

From boardrooms to break rooms, women are still facing inequality and underrepresentation in many workplaces and industries.

In the latest Global Gender Pay Gap Report 2021 from the World Economic Forum, it was found that another generation of women will have to wait for gender parity – with the global gender gap predicted to take 135.6 years to close, up from 99.5 years.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken us another step away from creating inclusive economies and societies. Pre-existing gender gaps have been exaggerated – for example, women staying at home and taking on the bulk of childcaring responsibilities – making it harder for women to achieve gender equality in the workplace.

So, what can employers do to help? Well, if you’re looking for some small, practical steps for building a more inclusive, diverse, and equal workplace, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are a few suggestions from our HR & Employment Law experts.

 

Have policies in place – and make sure you enforce them

From bullying and harassment to discrimination, your workplace policies and practices should make clear what counts as unacceptable behaviour at work. This includes having a dedicated equality, diversity and inclusion policy, which should cover everything from recruitment to pay.

Within these, you should also include clear expectations of how women should be treated – such as banning sexual harassment and inappropriate comments. Sex is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, meaning you could face costly claims if issues aren’t handled properly.

If issues do spring up, you should follow full and fair grievance and disciplinary procedures.

How to hold a disciplinary

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Improving equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Discover why good equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace is so important, and your legal responsibilities as an employer.

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Supporting working mothers

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, mothers are 1.5 times more likely than fathers to have either lost their job or quit since the start of the first lockdown and are also more likely to have been furloughed. Among those still working for pay, mothers spent less time on paid work throughout the day. The Fawcett Society also found 35% of working mothers have lost work or hours due to a lack of childcare support during the pandemic.

Supporting working mothers to keep them in work has never been more important. Things like approving flexible working where possible can help mothers fit work around their childcaring responsibilities, and could even avoid the risk of discrimination claims.

Maternity and paternity is another thing to consider – you should think about how you can make it easier for women and parents to take leave and return to work, including allowing flexible working arrangements. It can make all the difference in keeping women in work. You could also face claims if you don’t handle issues related to maternity properly.

Example (from Acas) - Three months before returning from maternity leave, a female employee requests to work fewer hours as she is now the main carer for her children at home. If you refuse her request but do not have a valid business reason, this could be discrimination because of sex - because more women than men are the main carers for their children.

Discover more about the best-practice processes for maternity leave and flexible working in our free guides below.

Maternity leave and pay

We've covered everything you need to know after an employee announces she's expecting.

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A guide to paternity leave and pay

Everything you need to know about paternity leave and pay - in one guide.

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Flexible working: your responsibilities

Everything you need to know about your responsibilities as an employer when it comes to flexible working requests.

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Menopause

Menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace.

There are 3.5 million women over 50 in the workplace in the UK, and the average age a woman starts her menopause is 51. For every ten women experiencing menopausal symptoms, six say it has a negative impact on their work, with 49% of the menopausal workforce considering taking early retirement.

From encouraging flexible working to making adjustments to your workplace environment, there’s plenty you can do to keep menopausal employees comfortable and in work. Discover our ten top tips here, or check out our guide for more information.

The menopause at work: a guide for employers

Our HR and Health & Safety experts have put together an exclusive guide to help you get a handle on why supporting employees experiencing menopause is important

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Pay

Average weekly earnings for full-time employees are higher for men than for women in all UK regions and countries. The Fawcett Society has highlighted equal pay as one of the four biggest fears for gender equality post-pandemic, with the gender pay gap continuing to widen.

Equal pay law is covered by the Equality Act 2010 and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) statutory code of practice on equal pay, and it’s aimed at equal pay for men and women doing equal work. Pay discrimination claims can be brought if you’re not making sure you follow this law.

So, you should check regularly that all employees doing equal work have equal:

  • pay
  • benefits
  • terms and conditions in their employment contracts

 

Encourage them into your industry 

Certain industries have a disproportionately small number of women making up their workforce – such as construction and manufacturing.

For example, of all the people working in construction, women make up only 16%. The picture is slightly better in manufacturing, but Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures show there were still only 734,000 women in the UK working in the industry in October to November last year, compared to almost two million men.

Encouraging women into those industries is crucial. From recruitment and policies to your workplace culture, you should make sure you’re considering what you could be doing to make your company one that is welcoming and open to both sexes.

The buck doesn’t stop when women are in the business, either. You should make sure you’re properly considering women for internal promotions, too. Good practice could be to ensure you have at least two women in the pool of candidates – especially internal promotions to leadership roles. Having two women in the pool of final candidates increases the chances of a woman being hired by 79.4%.

 

Training

Equality, diversity and inclusion should also have a place in the training, development and promotion of your team. This includes:

  • as part of training and development for employees and managers – covering everything from your workplace policies and the protected characteristics to fair recruitment
  • when inducting new team members – so everyone gets on board straight away with the equality, diversity and inclusion policy
  • training managers on performance review processes and promotions – to make sure they avoid questions or behaviours that could be discriminatory. For example, asking whether or not an employee fits in because of their sex.

 

Want to hear more?

If you want to start putting in place some of the simple steps we’ve talked about above, check out our equality, diversity and inclusion guide. It’s packed full of tips on building a more inclusive and fairer workplace.

Improving equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Discover why good equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace is so important, and your legal responsibilities as an employer.

Download the guide

Better support women in the workplace with Citation

From equality, diversity and inclusion policies to best-practice recruitment training, we can support you in building an inclusive workplace. Not just that – we can help you avoid costly tribunal claims by ensuring you know exactly how to approach equality, diversity and inclusion at all levels.

To find out more, simply call 0345 844 1111 or fill out the form on this page.

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