We recently published our blog “women through the cracks”, discussing the statistics that show the impact of Covid 19 on women and shining a light on gender equality.
Slater and Gordons employment law specialists conducted research presuming that they would find a dramatic decline in reports of sexism with workplaces and offices being closed however since lockdown stated in March they, in fact, found the following statistics;
- 35% of female workers experienced at least one sexist workplace demand since lockdown started
- 60% of female workers didn’t report inappropriate requests to HR
- 25% of female workers targeted with these comments have upped their beauty regime, fearing a negative impact on their career
- 41% of the sexist comments women received from their managers or co-workers were requests for them to change the way they dress or look in order to ‘help to win new business’ and it was important to look nicer for the team.
- 34% of women were asked to wear more make-up.
- 27% were asked to dress sexy or provocatively.
- 40% of women said these comments were targeted at them or other women in their teams, rather than their male peers, leaving them feeling objectified, demoralised and self-conscious about the way they look.
- About 32% of women – compared to 26% of men – have called out comments during meetings they felt were inappropriate or unwelcome.
- Six in ten women did not report these requests to dress more provocatively to their HR departments at all.
- 25% agreed to add to their beauty regime for fear of a negative impact on their career
Recently, our lovely MD, Jodie, answered a few questions on Radio Aire on sex discrimination. The following is the transcript of that radio discussion:
So, 35% of women are reporting at least one sexist workplace demand since lockdown started… e.g. being asked to “dress sexier” for Zoom calls or put on more makeup to “help win new business.”
What is your reaction to the above statement? Are you surprised?
I am quite surprised that any employers would condone or encourage that kind of behaviour because it still amounts to harassment whether it is on a telephone call or a zoom call or in person. The law is still the same because it is in the context of a work environment, and it is said to them because of their sex because they are a woman. Those comments are derogatory and offensive and should not be happening in the workplace at all.
Some women might feel there’s a blurred line between their boss making a passing comment and what can be classed as a sexist demand.
What’s the difference?
The interesting thing with harassment under the Equality Act is that it is any conduct or behaviour, or words said because of the fact that she is a woman and if that woman then finds it offensive, there is no intention needed. The employer doesn’t have to of intended to upset the woman because of the comments, it is just whether it is reasonable for it to have the effect of offending or humiliating her.
What advice would you give to any women who feel this is something they’re going through at work?
In those circumstances, I think that any comments made whether the employer intended it to be discriminative or not, amounts to harassment. Those individuals, if they are in that position, should be seeking support from a legal representative to establish whether or not it amounts to harassment under the act. They only have 3 months to bring a claim so the first thing I would suggest is to put a grievance in writing, set out what happened, when it happened, how it made you feel and then if it can’t be resolved internally, then you can pursue a claim in the Employment Tribunal within 3 months but the 3-month time limit is really important as is making sure you have a written record. Often these comments are said without any witnesses, that’s okay, you can still bring a claim, you can still raise this as a concern even if it is just your word against another’s. Please don’t feel as though you can’t raise that internally or in the Tribunal.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, Jodie then published the statistics on her LinkedIn, and there were some shocking comments and responses, with people questioning and denying whether discrimination of this nature still happened in the workplace. Sadly, discrimination is still common, and we need to work together to tackle these issues, rather than ignoring the facts.
If you do have any more questions regarding sex discrimination in the workplace or you feel as though you may have been discriminated. Please do not hesitate to get in touch at email@example.com where we can provide FREE advice and support.