A number of actors recently raised their concerns that a lack of Oscar nominations for black actors is discriminatory. This followed an outcry after the female lead in the latest Star Wars film, Rey, was omitted from the Star Wars Monopoly game.
Are their concerns being addressed? In short, at least in employment laws across the globe, slowly but surely, yes. Here we take a look at some of the global trends in discrimination and equality law over 2015 and look forward to developments in 2016.
There have been a number of record damages awards to plaintiffs and new laws to increase protection from discrimination.
Canada: In late 2015, two female Mexican workers were recently awarded $150,000 and $50,000 in damages for sexual harassment. This award more than tripled the largest damages award in Ontario, and more than doubled the largest damage awards nationally. The Ontario Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act will go into effect September 2017, creating new duties for employers to prevent and investigate sexual harassment in the workplace.
UAE: In August 2015, new laws introduced criminal offices for discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, color, or ethnic origin.
Taiwan: The fines enforced for acts of discrimination have been tripled.
Hong Kong: The Equal Opportunities Commission is considering whether discrimination on the basis of immigration/residency, sexual orientation and gender identity should be outlawed, and whether reasonable accommodation for disabled employees should be required.
China: The introduction of a new two child policy on January 1, 2016 means parents will now be able to take maternity and paternity leave after the birth of both children.
Netherlands: Employees can make flexible working requests to reduce their hours, or work from home once they have been employed for six months. An employer can only refuse a request for a “compelling” reason.
We are seeing new laws to address the gender pay gap and increase the number of women in management positions.
EU: A new directive is currently being negotiated that will set companies, listed on an EU stock exchange, a voluntary target of having 40% of non-executive director roles filled by women, by 2020, to help remove the glass ceiling. In 2017, companies listed on an EU stock exchange with more than 500 employees will have to publish their diversity policies and objectives, and explain how they have implemented these. There is already a requirement in Germany that 30% of a supervisory board be female.
Japan: In 2016, Japan will introduce legislation intended to increase the number of female workers in managerial positions. Companies with more than 300 employees are expected to audit the percentage of female new hires, and the percentage of females in managerial positions and average working hours compared to male employees.
UK: Gender pay reporting regulations are likely to come into force in October 2016, with a view to require companies with over 250 employees to disclose certain pay data from 2017 and publish information about the pay difference between men and women in their workforce by 2018.
United States: California introduced the Fair Pay Act – among others, the previous concept of “equal work” was replaced with “substantially similar” when comparing job roles, and comparisons can be made between jobs throughout California (subject to cost of living differences) - so a role in Palo Alto can be compared with a role in Sacramento. Other states already have and continue to introduce similar laws.
These examples are just a snapshot of the developments in global gender equality and discrimination laws. It is clear, however, that strides are being made around the world to tackle gender equality and discrimination issues. The publicity generated by comments from Hollywood can only quicken the pace of change.
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