A Right to Parity: Navigating Employee Obligations
The gender pay gap is all over the media, in particular as a result of high profile cases such as the BBC and more recently Tescos. The discussion will continue to garner huge interest and be high on the people agenda especially given the deadline for submitting the reports is April 2018 and thereafter on an annual basis for businesses of 250+ employees.
So why does this topic resonate so much? is it because females have a right be paid the same as their male counterparts? is it because females should be represented across the business including at board level? or is it that ultimately everyone has a right to parity?
If it is about fairness across the board, then I think we would all agree, that the principle extends to organisational practices in general including just to name a few; recruitment, succession planning, performance management and restructuring.
If we focus on restructuring, then there was an interesting case recently where The European Court of Justice defended a dismissal of a pregnant employee. You may feel on the face of it that this does not seem right and potentially discriminatory.
However, if we are in an age where everyone should be treated fairly and equally surely that means that where there is a genuine business case and objective selection is adopted amongst other procedural considerations, then it is legitimate to include and potentially dismiss employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave.
Businesses can be reluctant to include pregnant employees or those on maternity leave in a restructuring process, for fear of the risks involved. Going so far, as delaying or not undertaking the exercise at all even though there is a commercial need. Businesses who adopt this approach, unfortunately, may be inadvertently placing someone else at a disadvantage.
In fact, there is a case (Eversheds Legal Services Ltd v De Belin) where an employer was so cautious in its undertaking of a redundancy process, which included an employee on maternity leave, that it resulted in a male employee successfully claiming that he was discriminated against based on his sex and that he had been unfairly dismissed.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal found in favour of the male claimant as he was selected for redundancy as opposed to a colleague who was on maternity leave at the time based on a selection process that placed him at a disadvantage.
It is encouraging that the media is behind initiatives that increase equality awareness and here’s hoping that will lead to positive action for all. But, we shouldn’t forget that it is about much more than pay and that equality encompasses all employees.
At PlusHR we appreciate that navigating employee obligations, especially where there is a risk of discrimination, can be daunting. We provide a service where we can guide you and give you the confidence to tackle genuine organisational challenges.