The needs and demands of our society have forced governments to develop and implement values and ideas, in order for them to design and create polices which will lead to greater equality within our society. These ideas are forwarded to the House of Commons and The House of Lords and it is here that the ideas are debated and considered. If they are then considered effective they can then be implemented within our society to combat inequalities.
These ideas go through various stages as “bills” and can be amended whilst it is being considered within the House of Lords, If it is successful it receives “Royal absent and passes into a law as an act of parliament” (Intro to social policy, Cliff Alcock, pg, 62) To date many important equal opportunities legislations have been introduced to create a fairer society, for example the disability employment act 1944 and 1958 and 1995. The act has many main points but a key factor of the act is that it has opened up the work market for disabled people as employers having more then 20 employees have a “3 percent quota system”. Equal opportunities and social policy, Barbara Bagilhole, pg 179)
Thus larger companies have a responsibility to recruit disable people as part of there work force. It is not only in area such as disability were the law has been used to create a more equal society, legislation has been put into place concerning race, religion and gender. For the purpose of this essay I will be focusing on gender and legislation that has been put into place in order to create more equality within society. I will be focusing on the ex discrimination act 1975 and illustrating if it has brought greater fairness within our society. The first legislation for equality between men and women was the 1970 Equal pay act “which requires equal pay for men and women doing the same sort of work”. (Men, women and equality pg 1)
The second significant legislation is The Sex discrimination act implemented in 1975 and amended in 1986. Its key function is to stop discrimination occurring on the grounds of ones “sex” or because of “marital status” within “employment”, “training”, “education and the provision of goods, facilities and services”. Equal opportunities and social policy pg 182) The sex discrimination act makes it against the law for employees to discriminate indirectly for instance an employer applying conditions to a job which they cannot justify such as height requirement, and the employer knowing that the likely hood of women being able to meet the requirements is less then that of men is now unlawful. In addition direct discrimination where by a company does not interview a male or female applicant as they feel that they would not fit in is now considered as against the law.
The sex discrimination act also applies these principles to those who are married, thus making it unlawful to discrimination against an individual due to there marital status. Employers are no longer allowed to “quiz” women over there home circumstance, to see if they have children and if so that they have adequate childcare arrangements, unless they do the same to the men that they interview. The legislation on its own cannot change people’s views and attitudes over night nor is the legislation trying to control how individual personal feel.
However by imposing the new laws, for instance not allowing employers to advertise a job for a Particle sex, the government is setting standards and making a public statement that certain views and behavioral attitudes will not be accepted, in today’s society. Many of the legislations that have been implemented, have been done so with the hope that time and education will be the key forces behind change, and be the starting point for changing society’s beliefs and incorporating more fairness within society due to awareness.
The Equal opportunities commission which was established, under the Sex discrimination Act and now works towards promoting equality and removing discrimination within our society (www. eoc. org. uk). Believed that the 1975 sex discrimination act has brought many positive changes and women have been able to make it into positions of power. In 1972 Rose Heilbron QC was the “first women judge to sit at the Old Bailey” (men, women and equality pg 2. ), in 1979 Britain saw its first ever women Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher and to this day women are still “breaking through” into positions of power within the corporate world.
In addition women are making progress into so-called men’s jobs e. g. the stock market, banking industry and the army. Yvonne Pope in 1975 was the first women to become a jet airline captain and Anne Winter in 1983 was the first women train driver. These women allow other women and younger girls to see that they can be equal to man if given the opportunities and are encouraged. A key factor in combating inequality has been the changes that have been made in education. The sex discrimination Act gave children the same right to equal access to Education and the national curriculum now teaches girls and boys the same subjects.
By allowing equal access to education the work place is now “opening up” and certain professions such as nursing thought to be “women’s professions” is now seeing more men entering, and more girls are achieving in science and going into areas such as technology and design. Girls are now encouraged to do well at school and go out into the work market and be successful and they are now longer expected to be dependent upon there husbands and there husbands wages and pensions, “Women and men have the same rights to most social Security” (Men, Women and Equality, Craig Donnellan, pg 3. There is however still a lot more that needs to be done in order to combat inequality within our society.
The Government is hoping to introduce new legislation which will develop polices and support flexible working hrs for both man and women. For example giving individuals more freedom to decided there own time plan which suits them best, this could be as simple as arriving fifteen minuets later for work so that a parent can drop there child at school, and make up for the time at the end of the day so that they leave fifteen minuets later.
According to the Equal opportunities commission web page (www. eoc. org. uk) it indicates strongly that they are still keen to campaign given both women and men equal quality services in education and health. They hope to do this by responding to the different sexes needs, an example of this can be man and women well being clinics which encourage individuals to be aware of there well being and there different health needs.
The equal opportunities commission also wants to see “An improved system of maternity rights and a national strategy in place to provide good quality, affordable childcare to all. ” (Men and Women and equality, Craig Donnellan pg 26) The Government is trying to be understanding concerning childcare arrangements, and is trying to assist parents by giving both mothers and fathers equal rights within the work force when taking time of to look after there children.
The Government has introduced legislation were by parents are allowed to take unpaid leave for up to thirteen weeks to be with there children, unfortunately many cannot afford to do this Although the law has allowed key changes which has been beneficial to both men and women the law may not be the only answer, most importantly gender views need to be reshaped and the expectance of women to be house wives needs to be challenged.
Perhaps the role that fathers play in the family needs to be increased thus taking the pressure of the mothers so that they can, and be motivated enough to want to succeed in decision-making jobs. However the Government has to be cautious not to impose too many legislations as this could and may cause further discrimination indirectly, as companies feel they have to employ people for certain reasons and not necessary because they are right for the job.
Finally and most importantly gender views do need to be reshaped by employees and employers to bring radical changes within work this could be as simple as flexible hours, and hopefully progressing into changing what is expected from men and women within certain jobs. Only through the introduction of legislations, and bodies such as the equal commission can employers strive to become more human and thus create greater fairness within our society.