Equal Employment Opportunities: Comparing Gender Difference In India And UK Regulations
This Blog is written by Raman Poonia from VGU School of Law, Vivekananda Global University, Jaipur. Edited by Oshin Suryawanshi.
Equal participation by women and men in both economic and social development can benefit them equally from societies resources, which is also crucial for achieving gender justice. The UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) was created in 1976 to provide technical and financial assistance for women’s empowerment. The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the UNGA. It is sometimes described as an international bill of rights for women. It is of significance that the United States is the only developed nation not to ratify this convention. The Decade for Women (1976-1985) and four world conferences on women (between 1975 and 1995) contributed significantly to raising awareness and commitment to gender equality and gender justice.
In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. In doing so, UN Member States took an historic step in accelerating the Organization’s goals on gender equality and the empowerment of women. Apart from that the Commission on the Status of Women, a global policy making body of ECOSOC is dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.
The UNDP has developed the two most well known gender justice indexes – Gender Related Development Index and the Gender Empowerment Measure to compare and rank member states with regard to gender justice performance. India is ranked 113 in the Gender Related Development Index, while USA is 16th and UK is 10th.
SIGNIFICANCE IF DEVELOPMENT
The importance and benefits of imposing Equal Employment Opportunity training and policies are not limited to the employees but also help a country in numerous ways. Apart from this, it has a broad scope of recognition for the employer as well.
Since it is a requirement enforced by the law to consider all applications equally regardless of their background, race, culture, religion, language, etc. the organisation can focus on evaluating the talent, skillset and abilities of applicants who can efficiently contribute and make significant value-addition to the organisation. Usually, most organisations overlook the demand of the vacant position and fail to recruit the right candidate by hiring an individual who “seemingly fits the role” without any evaluation or assessments done to measure one’s qualification. Hence, on the lines of Equal Employment Opportunity policy, the companies can spread word of mouth of their transparent and ethical recruitment process, attract potential applicants and make unbiased hiring decisions to employ qualified candidates and build a proficient team with the right know-how and capacity to perform challenging tasks to add to the overall growth of the organization.
Increased employee engagement:
The Equal Employment Opportunity policies allow employees to openly interact and engage with each other without discriminating peers on their races, sex, religion, or their hierarchical rank in the organisation. It not only promotes respect toward fellow employees but also breeds an open, friendly culture with an opportunity to help and encourage co-worker performance and add up to diversity in the organisation. When such policies are implemented it create a healthy environment for the employees to quickly reach out to their subordinates as well as higher authorities and build an effective, transparent communication system within the organisation that scales up their productivity and broadens the scope of knowledge-exchange.
Greater customer satisfaction and service:
Customers and stakeholders hold the firm assurance of the organisation if its employees perform well to contribute to the success of the organisation as it imposes sound guidelines to ensure a safe and hospitable workplace for everyone. Work environment which is conducive to the all-round development of employees aids encouragement in them to work more efficiently, achieve more milestones in short time, and produce excellent results that ultimately lead to serving customers with improved services, thereby increasing client retention and satisfaction.
The Equal Employment Opportunity policy draws a baseline for employees to be aware of acceptable behaviour, which is critical considering the varying differences in lifestyles, attitudes, values, and socioeconomic strata. It helps employees feel secure and that they’re being treated equally and fairly, increases their level of dedication, loyalty, and satisfaction toward the employer. Employers who issue robust and comprehensive EEO policies as well as educating their staff through training on EEO can create an efficient system to mitigate legal liabilities associated with unlawful behaviour, derogatory remarks or acts, and unequal employment practices, and take anticipatory measures to protect individuals and their rights. The critical thing is that if discrimination takes place, or is perceived to have taken place at work, that our people know how to identify, report and resolve such issues. Also, it enables employees to raise allegations against disparate treatment, while the employer must take legal, fair and ethical actions to restrain further workplace conflict.
Stronger brand reputation:
Everyone prefer working for organisations regarded well in the industry owing to their strong adherence to Equal Employment Opportunity policies. The policies can either make or break the image of an organisation. However, if implemented effectively, the EEO policies add to the brand recognition of an organisation based on its actions toward their commitment to fair and equal workforce conduct. It not only uplifts employee morale but also makes significant differences in profitability and productivity, thereby increasing the total revenue. These policies have a positive impact on corporate stock value as they moderate the cost associated with lower morale and revenue.
Equal participation by women and men in both economic and social development, and women and men benefiting equally from societies’ resources is crucial for achieving gender justice and have a greater impact on the country’s growth in all aspects.
The UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) was created in 1976 to provide technical and financial assistance for women’s empowerment. The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the UNGA. It is sometimes described as an international bill of rights for women. It is of significance that the United States is the only developed nation not to ratify this convention. The Decade for Women (1976-1985) and four world conferences on women (between 1975 and 1995) contributed significantly to raising awareness and commitment to gender equality and gender justice.
In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. In doing so, UN Member States took an historic step in accelerating the Organization’s goals on gender equality and the empowerment of women. Apart from that the Commission on the Status of Women, a global policy making body of ECOSOC is dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. The UNDP has developed the two most well known gender justice indexes – Gender Related Development Index and the Gender Empowerment Measure to compare and rank member states with regard to gender justice performance. India is ranked 113 in the Gender Related Development Index, while USA is 16th and UK is 10th.
PROVISION IN THE LEGISLATION
LEGISLATION IN INDIA:
Women’s groups started emerging in India in the early 1900s and at first focused on social reform. They have also campaigned vigorously and successfully for social and political equality with men. In 1950 women and men over the age of 21 were granted voting rights. Indian patriarchal society not only harbours a culture of violence against women in the form of dowry, domestic violence and female infanticide, it also manifests in government policies towards women. The unequal representation of Indian women in national political parties is all the more disquieting given that the Indian constitution guarantees gender equality in the Articles 325 and 326. Despite the deeply ingrained patriarchal attitude prevalent in India, it is one of the few countries ever to have elected a woman prime minister: Indira Gandhi. We still haven’t secured 33% reservation for women in parliament and state assemblies, despite the Women’s Reservation bill being close at hand for so long.
The Constitution of India has various provisions to ensure equality of the sexes and also to dismantle the prevalent imbalances in gender hierarchy. Article 14 of the Constitution states that there shall be equality before the law and equal protection of the law. Article 15 safeguards the right against discrimination. The Constitution also provides for positive discrimination and affirmative action on some counts. Article 15(3) permits special provisions for women. Article 16 provides equal opportunity with respect to public employment and they shall not be discriminated on the basis of sex of the person. Article 21 guarantees the right to life, the interpretation which has been broadened to include the right to live with dignity. Article 23 guarantees the right against exploitation. It prohibits traffic in human beings.
The directive Principles of State Policy also provide measures for gender equality. Article 39(a) aims at providing the right to adequate means of livelihood for men and women, equally. Article 51(A)(e) of the Constitution provides that it will be the duty of every citizen to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
The Indian Constitution calls for eight years of compulsory education for girls and boys aged 6 to 14. However, women still lag far behind men and rural women are twice as likely to be illiterate compared to their urban counterparts. The legal marriage age is 21 for males and 18 for females. A recent law commission has recommended to equalise the marriage age for both men and women to 18 but this has yet to be implemented. Personal laws of Hindus and Muslims dictate different codes of conduct regarding marriage and divorce.
The people of India are guaranteed equal pay for equal work by the Constitution and reinforced by the 1975 Equal Remuneration Act. The drawback is that this law does not apply to agriculture , the area where most women in India are employed. Gender based pay scales with lower wages for female workers are not uncommon. Today we observe a shift towards the service sector by working women but no occupational field is impervious to gender injustice as of today. It is also horrifying to note that there is no statutory enactment in India against sexual harassment at work place. But in the absence of a law, the Supreme Court has laid down certain guidelines pertaining to sexual harassment at the work place in the landmark case of Vishakha and others v. State of Rajasthan. Women are entitled to maternity benefits under the Employees’ State Insurance plan, which provides a 90 day paid leave. The central government has endorsed the concept of paternity leave for the same duration for men, but this cannot be enforced in the private sector.
A woman does not have a right to Abortion in India. The Medical Termination Of Pregnancy Act, 1971 legalises abortion only in certain circumstances – to preserve the woman’s physical and mental health, rape and incest cases or when the fetus suffers severe abnormalities. There is no provision in the Act which allows abortion on the basis of the will of the woman. Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code, defines the offence of ‘causing miscarriage’. It states that whoever voluntarily causes a woman with child to miscarry shall, if not in good faith ,be punished with imprisonment of upto 3 years or fine or both. A woman who causes herself to miscarry is within the scope of this section. This form of oppression violates the fundamentals of justice. Women are entitled to their opinion and choices.
The Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was enacted to curb the onslaught of domestic violence. It is the first of its kind in India. An important advance made by the Act in understanding the nature of domestic violence has been in the combination of civil and criminal remedies. The number of cases of domestic violence in India are on the rise. This may also be due to greater reporting of Domestic Violence Cases.
Equal Remuneration Act, 1976:
According to the provisions of this Act, an employer cannot make any unreasonable discrimination when it comes to the remuneration for a job and the payment must be of similar nature for the same kind of job. Additionally, there must also not be any difference made while an assignment of a job, promotion or transfer of women, unless the kind of work is unsuitable for women.
LEGISLATION IN THE UK
The UK has always strived to promote equality in the workplace. Through the years there have been different statutory bodies that dealt with specific aspects of discrimination. The Equal Opportunities Commission was established to tackle the issue of sex discrimination. The Disability Rights Commission focused on issues related to disability discrimination and the Commission for Racial Equality dealt with race discrimination.
In October 2007 these three commissions were merged into the new body called the Equality and Human Rights Commission. In addition to taking on the responsibilities of the three existing commissions, the EHRC also acquired new responsibilities in order to provide the same level of protection to all other minority groups. The primary aim of the newly formed Equality and Human Rights Commission is to promote and protect everyone’s right to equal opportunities in the workplace as laid down in the Equality Act 2010.Denying any employee or prospective employee their right to equal opportunity in the workplace is tantamount to discrimination, which is considered unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.
Indra Sawhney vs Union of India,1992
This case is relevant because it focuses on the need to provide justice and equality to all citizens. It mentions that there must be provisions to eradicate any undesirable practice in the sense that it results in discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, sex, etc. To serve this purpose, the state can make provisions for women to improve their status.
Dattatraya Motiram More vs State Of Bombay, 1952
This case defended the provision for reservation of seats for women in employment in municipalities. It stated that this would amount to discrimination favourable to women and it does not offend any provisions of the constitution, instead such a provision would be qualified according to Article 15(3).
The state must recognise the importance of both physical security and social protection for it’s citizens and must take the measures that are important for the growth and overall development.
Theres’s no doubt as to why organisations should issue Equal Employment Opportunity policies. However, on devising and implementing one, companies should educate and train their workforce about the growing incidents of workplace conflict due to prejudices based on background, race, sex, culture, religion, language, etc., and how they can identify, report and resolve such incidents in the workplace. It is the responsibility of an organisation to strive for a safe, fair and inclusive work environment for their workers where they can prosper and contribute intrinsically to the organisation’s growth. That is why we see an increase in commitment from organisations of all sizes, from small and medium business to larger organisations, to train their staff and have policies in place for things such as work health and safety, privacy, workplace bullying, sexual harassment and equal employment opportunity.
Equal participation by women and men in both economic and social development, and women and men benefiting equally from societies’ resources is crucial for achieving gender justice. The idea of formal equality can be traced back to Aristotle and his dictum that equality meant “things that are alike should be treated alike”. This is the most widespread understanding of equality today. Equality as formal equality has an important role in the law and policy of many countries with advanced equality and non-discrimination provisions. For instance, it forms the conceptual basis of the term “direct discrimination” utilised in the UK or the guarantee of ‘equal protection of the laws’ contained in the United States Constitution.
Despite this formal equality, few would argue that gender asymmetries have disappeared. Positive action is a way of attaining substantive equality. Substantive equality is a concept of equality that is concerned with the ensuring ability of persons to compete on an equal basis, having regard to various obstacles (including discrimination) that may impede this equality of opportunity. While laws to eliminate discrimination are necessary to achieve gender justice, substantive equality encourages the state to move a step ahead and introduce positive action. This positive or affirmative action helps secure equal opportunities for all genders.
Both India and the UK has its fair share of problems associated with sex inequality and we can conclude that while they have been taking steps to improve it there is still a huge scope of improvement in this regard for both the countries. As mentioned above the U.S could certainly benefit from the policies as it would create specifically dedicated teams and commissions to promote women needs. In addition to that, other law enforcement bodies would also become sensitive to issues that are related to women and take measures to improve their conditions.
(3) Gender Justice in the European Union – Catherine Holst.
(4) Human Development Report; gender related development index.
(5) Fagan, C. and Rubery, J. (2017). Advancing gender equality through European Employment Policy: The impact of the UK’s EU membership and the risks of Brexit. Social Policy & Society, 17(2), pp. 297-317.
(6) Rees, T. (2005). Reflections on the uneven development of gender mainstreaming in Europe. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 7(4), pp. 555-574.
(7) Hankivsky, O. and Christoffersen, A. (2011). Gender mainstreaming in the United Kingdom: current issues and future challenges. British Politics, 6(1), pp. 30-51.