Gender equality is again at the forefront of employment law news. The imminent introduction of the Gender Pay Gap Reporting regulations will require all large employers with more than 250 employees in the UK to publish data about pay and bonus disparities within their organisation.
The law has long recognised that discrimination and unequal pay can come about subconsciously or unintentionally. In many cases there is no overt intent to discriminate, but if we make assumptions about people or pander to stereotypes the net result might be discriminatory treatment.
The new Gender Pay laws take a carrot and stick approach, forcing employers to confront and analyse pay discrepancies whether they occur unintentionally or otherwise. Combined with the threat of bad publicity, the law should encourage employers to do something about the gaps.
This is a step in the right direction, nudging people to reflect on and reassess their long-held assumptions and practices. Discarding “Dear Sirs” from the start of letters, and using a more gender-neutral form of address instead, may also be a small but smart move in that direction.
One of Britain’s most prestigious law firms has banned the use of “Dear sirs” from all of its legal documents and communications, apparently the first of the “magic circle” of top City legal companies to do so. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has stopped using the phrase from this weekend. In the UK the firm will now address all communications to “Dear Sir or Madam”, while in the US all correspondence will start with “Dear Ladies and Gentlemen”. Equivalents in Cantonese, Mandarin and European languages have also been agreed across Freshfields’ global network.