Equality in the workplace: Equality Commission’s asks for 2020

Equality Commission's CEO Rebecca Hilsenrath outlines their ten asks for employers and Government to advance workplace equality this year.

Rather than wish for a happy new year in January, I asked for it to be a meaningful one for strengthening the economy and building opportunity through improving equality in the workplace.

2020 is an important milestone for equality law. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, which gives a right to equal pay for men and women for equal work. It is also a decade since the Equality Act came into force, prohibiting discrimination against a person because of a range of characteristics – including sex, pregnancy and maternity, age and disability.

Despite great progress towards more inclusive workplaces as a result, many people still face significant barriers at work. The gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps remain stubbornly wide, many ethnic minority and older people still face barriers in accessing the workplace,and there is evidence that workplace harassment remains widespread, as shown by the #MeToo movement and by our own ‘Turning the Tables’ report on workplace sexual harassment.

We want to mark the anniversaries of these two seminal pieces of equality legislation by making 2020 the year where we take a leap forward towards ensuring that everyone in Britain has equal access to the labour market and is treated fairly at work.

Both our new Government and the vast majority of employers recognise the need to promote equality and diversity and ensure fair treatment at work. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also improves an organisation’s effectiveness and reputation. So we’re calling on them to take ten steps to help make this a reality in 2020:

For the UK Government

  1. Pass new legislation to protect people from harassment at work by introducing a mandatory duty on employers to take reasonable steps to protect employees from harassment and by reinstating third party harassment protections.
  2. Legislate to make void confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements which attempt to prevent disclosure of future acts of discrimination or harassment
  3. Mandate the right to flexible working from day one of all jobs, at all levels unless there is a genuine business reason for not doing so.
  4. Reintroduce the power of Employment Tribunals to make wider recommendationsfor change to employers’ policy or practice and make these judgments enforceable.
  5. Guarantee employment standards will not fall behind international best practice by committing in law to non-regression of workers’ rights as we leave the EU and bringing all provisions of the Equality Act 2010 into force.
  6. Require employers subject to the Gender Pay Gap regulations to also monitor and report on the recruitment, retention and progression of disabled and ethnic minority staff within the workplace, and to implement action plans to close these gaps.

For employers

  1. Prevent and respond to harassment at work by complying with our new technical guidance and by avoiding or ceasing the use of non-disclosure agreements to silence employees who have suffered harassment or discrimination.
  2. Take real action to close the gender pay gap. Employers should not only publish data on the difference in pay between men and women in their organisation but also carry out an analysis of the factors underlying any gaps and put in place a time-limited action plan to tackle these.
  3. Publish data on (and take action to close) ethnicity and disability pay gaps.
  4. Advertise all jobs, including senior roles, on a flexible or job-share basis, unless there is a genuine business reason that means this is not possible.

I’m calling on political leaders and employers to mark the start of a new decade and the anniversaries of these important laws by taking these steps to usher in a new era of fairness and equality in the workplace.

At the Equality and Human Rights Commission we’ll continue to work in partnership with employers, the Government, trade unions, regulators, civil society and the legal profession to uphold and strengthen the rights of workers in all professions so that everyone is treated fairly at work.

Our new ‘Sexual harassment and harassment at work – guidance for employers’ is available here.


By Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive Officer at Equality and Human Rights Commission.

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