Legal system failing women, says Fawcett Society in major sex discrimination law review

26th January 2018

Legal system failing women, says Fawcett Society in major sex discrimination law review

The British legal system is failing women and requires fundamental reform to tackle the endemic of violence, abuse and inequality, according to a report published this week by the Fawcett Society.

The far-reaching study found that half of all women have been subjected to sexual harassment at work and one in five females has experienced sexual assault. The report also examined discrimination in the workplace, citing a lack of progress on closing the pay gap and concerns over statutory maternity pay remaining amongst the lowest in Europe.

Other key findings include:
• 64% of women of all ages have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in public places;
• In some sexual offences cases a victim’s sexual history evidence is being inappropriately used in court;
• 54,000 pregnant women and working mothers are pressured to leave their job early each year.

The Fawcett Society’s report is the conclusion of the campaign group’s Sex Discrimination Law Review (SDLR) Panel, which was made up of a team of legal experts and chaired by Dame Laura Cox, DBE, a retired High Court Justice. It was set up to review the UK’s sex discrimination laws in response to the risk that long-established rights could be eroded or weakened as a result of Brexit and leaving the EU single market.

It also considered the effectiveness of current laws and how best to balance the rights of the individual with the responsibilities of the organisation.

The report, which is the first of its kind, calls for a number of specific changes to the legal system. These include strengthening the laws on sexual harassment at work to protect women from harassment, making ‘up-skirting’ an offence and misogyny a hate crime, and extending protection from pregnancy discrimination to six months after maternity leave ends.

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “What we see is a deeply misogynistic culture where harassment and abuse are endemic and normalised coupled with a legal system that lets women down because in many cases it doesn’t provide access to justice.”

Dame Laura Cox, Chair of the Review Panel, added: “The evidence we received, of increasing levels of violence, abuse and harassment against women, was deeply disturbing. A lack of access to justice for such women has wide-ranging implications not only for the women themselves, but also for society as a whole and for public confidence in our justice system.”

How can Gotelee help your business?

As an employer, you have a duty to ensure your staff – both female and male – are safe when they are in the workplace. Creating a culture where harassment and bullying aren’t tolerated is crucial in meeting your obligations as an employer and in protecting your business from potential legal actions.

Gotelee’s employment law solicitors can help you identify risk areas in your policies and procedures with a free audit. We regularly train managers on how to tackle difficult employment issues, and taking these steps will minimise your exposure to claims – and benefit your managers, too.

Our specialist solicitors in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Felixstowe, Woodbridge and Melton act for businesses large and small in Suffolk, Essex and further afield and can guide you with a minimum of fuss and expense.

To find out how Gotelee can help you, call Andrew West on 01473 298126 or email

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