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Firms warned on sexual discrimination

7 September 2006

An employment lawyer has advised law firms to include equal opportunities policies in employment contracts after a survey showed 72 per cent of women felt they had been bullied at work because of their gender.

“Tribunals are increasingly looking at written policies and procedures enforced by employers, and will almost certainly find an employer to be failing in their duty of care if they do not have a written and well publicised equal opportunities policy,” said Peter Done of Manchester-based firm Peninsula. “Tribunals are won in the workplace, not the courtroom; as such employers need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they did everything in their power to prevent any harassment from occurring.”

Done was speaking after his firm released a comprehensive survey of how women feel they are treated at work in 2006. The research questioned over 2,000 women in a number of industries and found that a greater percentage of females think they are being discriminated against now than in 2002. For example, 82 per cent of respondents said they felt being female harmed their chances of career progression, compared to 78 per cent in 2002, and 72 per cent said they felt intimidated at work because of their gender, as opposed to 67 per cent in 2002.

“Employers are facing unlimited court awards and huge legal costs for the actions of their managers towards women,” warned Done. “Promotion and career progression opportunities for female employees, although better than they once were, are still not on a par with men.”

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