Developing A Balanced Workforce
Legislation regarding equality at work has been in place since the ‘70’s but many traditional industries, for a wide range of reasons, still tend to biased towards one gender or another. Since 1996, women’s presence in manufacturing has declined from over 11% to just over 4%of the working female population working in that sector.
Benefits of a balanced workforce
The clear and most obvious benefit in creating a more balanced work force is simply down to the availability of skills. It’s fair to say the UK is in the grip of a prolonged skills shortage and as such by focusing attention on one gender over another, employers are simply only targeting 50% of the potential labour market, this creates wage inflation as skilled and semi-skilled workers increase in value.
In terms of training and skills, girls consistently outperform boys in achieving 5+ A*- C GCSE grades at school (61% to 51%) and women are 35`% more likely to go to University than men, with more women achieving a 2:1 degree than men. As work becomes more skilled and specialized, the statistics inform us that female workers are potentially more academically competent than male colleagues.
Another more discreet benefit is that of business performance, there have been a wide range of studies that have shown that by creating a more balanced workforce, performance does increase as you bring in a wider range of new people with different approaches, ideas and work ethics.
A final benefit to employers can be the creation of a more flexible work place with a range of employees working on both a full and part time basis, this can help reduce persistent overtime costs, by bringing in other staff who may want part time hours on a normal rate, instead of full time work.
Working within the law
The 2010 Equality Act has placed the onus on all employers, employees and customers to behave in ways that cannot be seen to be discriminatory towards one group or another including Gender, Age, Race and Religion.
All employers are duty bound to treat employees equally and give male and female applicants and employees the same opportunities and rates of pay. Failure to do this can lead to employers being accused of unfair treatment and subsequent legal claims.
Working with Family Friendly Policies
Over the past 10 years the law has changed in a number of subtle ways, one of which has been to do away with legal benefits that had one rule for male workers and another for females – an example has been the abolishment of male and female retirement ages.
Today, the range of benefits that may have traditionally been seen as being more biased towards female workers are equally open to men, so by creating a more balanced workforce employers are not increasing the number of rights workers are entitled to through their employment.
Examples of these joint benefits are:
- Shared maternity leave – where the employee’s partner can share the female workers maternity leave
- Parental leave –up to 18 weeks unpaid leave from work to care for children
- Time off for dependants – unpaid leave to cover family emergencies
- Adoption leave – paid time off following adoption
- Flexible working – the right to request flexible working hours
- Paternity leave – paid and unpaid time off for fathers and partners
In addition to the above when creating a balanced workforce, there are a number of practical matters that should be taken into consideration including:
- Equal access to toilet and changing facilities
- Removal of any materials from walls or public display that could be seen as being offensive or derogatory
- Equal access to training and informal courses that are relevant to people’s roles
- Equal opportunities for internal promotion
- Equal pay, so pay is based on skills and abilities as opposed to gender or length of service