Workplace discrimination is something many women face every single day. It can be down to issues with pay and promotions, flexible working hours, pregnancy, maternity leave, or even childcare. Whether it is from the employer or colleagues throughout the UK there is an on going struggle for equality and fairness.
Recent stats from Equality Human Rights states “Around one in nine mothers, (11 per cent) reported that they were either dismissed; made compulsorily redundant, where others in their workplace were not; or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave. If this stat is then scaled up to represent the general population it could mean as many as 54,000 mothers per year lose their job due to becoming a parent.”
These outstanding figures along with an article from The Guardian stating that “70 percent of bosses think that women should declare they’re pregnant when applying for job” and that one in four thought it was fair to ask interviewees if they plan to have children. It’s no wonder that women that are of a childbearing age (who may not even be planning on having kids) feel the pressure and impact of discriminative behaviour in the office.
As a business owner it is important to know what classes as discriminative behaviour and whether you or any of your employees are discriminating against anyone.
It can come in many forms and can be so subtle that the person responsible doesn’t even realise they are doing it. For example, women often fall victim of missing out on deserved promotions, this can be due to being at an age in which they are expected to have children or become pregnant, this then of course reflects their level of pay.
As a business owner and employer it is important to keep things professional but also continue to be fair.
To do this make sure you do the following:
If you are planning to promote someone make sure all personal circumstances are left out of the equation. If someone does become pregnant that you were going to promote, don’t avoid giving them the promotion because you think they’re not going to be there. Have an honest conversation; consider their plan and discuss options for accommodating their maternity leave in order to work something out that both participants are happy with. They shouldn’t miss out on an opportunity of promotion purely due to circumstance, if it’s deserved.
Communication is key, if things are happening in the office that you are not aware of, you want to make sure people feel as though they can approach you to tell you what is going on.
Both women and men could take leave to take up parental responsibilities; so there should be no difference in the way they are treated prior to this and also when they return to work from being on maternity or paternity.
For any company, small, medium or large there will be a point where someone may leave to go on maternity or paternity. It’s how you deal with it that is the most important.
You have to be prepared for this, understand that it is likely they don’t even know themselves what they are planning to do when the baby is born. Be proactive and supportive to prevent minimal disruption for the rest of the office. Hiring a temporary member of staff, or offering an internship to an eager professional could be a simple solution. Think about what works best for the company and trust your instinct.
Flexible hours will be something you also need to prepare for, remember, if you value your staff and see that they have potential, then work something out. Can they work from home part of the week? Or what about simply shortening their hours and bringing someone else in?
Discrimination against anyone is unlawful and should never be tolerated in any business however it is easily preventable with the right precautions and rules put in place.
Darren Diamond is the CEO of www.dywaj.co.uk.