Gender Equality in the Workplace: Legal Advances and Ongoing Challenges

Author: Sainoor Nayab, a student at Galgotias University 

Key points:

While India has made legislative progress over the years, gender equality in the workplace remains an important issue. Laws have been passed to promote equality in the workplace and protect women’s rights. However, entrenched social norms, poor implementation of policies and lack of awareness among workers continue to hinder the achievement of gender equality in real life. This article takes an in depth look at the legal process, local law and ongoing issues related to gender equality in the workplace in India.

Use of legal terms:
Gender equality in India is supported by various laws, regulations and judicial systems. The main terms of the law include “recognition”, “equal pay for equal work”, “fight against discrimination” and “sexual harassment”.

Gender equality in the workplace is essential for a fair and prosperous society. India has implemented the law to eliminate gender discrimination and promote equality between men and women. Despite these efforts, differences in culture and practice often hinder progress. This article explores the legal status of gender equality in the workplace in India, highlights important cases and discusses the ongoing challenges in achieving gender equality. It also provides recommendations to improve the management of existing policies and create more jobs. 

Article of the Constitution Article:

The Constitution of India laid a solid foundation for gender equality in a few sentences:

– Article 14 provides for equality before the law and equal protection before the law.

– Article 15 prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender or place of birth.

– Article 16 guarantees equal opportunity in public employment.

These laws are designed to create an environment free of discrimination for all citizens, regardless of gender, and to ensure social relations.

  • Legal Provisions

    1. Equal Pay Act, 1976:

Equal Pay Law states that employers must pay equal wages to male and female employees for the same or similar work. The law also prohibits discrimination against women in recruitment and employment. The law is important in eliminating gender pay inequality and ensuring that women receive fair wages for the work they do.

2. Violence Against Women at Work (Prevention, Protection and Safety) Act 2013:

Law commonly known as the POSH Act, aims to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace and to prevent and redress sexual harassment complaints. This is important legislation to ensure safe working conditions for women. The law provides for the establishment of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to deal with sexual complaints in the workplace, making this committee an important part of protecting women’s rights.

3. Decision:

Recognize policies to increase gender representation in employment and education, including reservations for women in certain occupations. These policies aim to combat the effects of history and discrimination and provide women with greater access to the opportunities that men previously had.

  • Jurisprudence
  1. Visakha v. State of Rajasthan (1997)

The landmark decision of the Supreme Court laid down guidelines called the “Vishaka Guidelines” for addressing and preventing harassment in the workplace. These guidelines formed the basis of the Workplace Violence Against Women Act of 2013. The Visakha Act provides a framework for employers to ensure safe working conditions and address complaints about sexual harassment.

  1. Air India – Nergesh Meerza (1981)

In this case, the Supreme Court challenged the discrimination committed by Air India in serving women cabin crew. The conditions include the cancellation of services in the first pregnancy, which is considered illegal and contrary to Article 14 (right to equality). The decision supports the principle of gender equality in employment and emphasizes the need to eliminate discrimination that hinders the advancement of women.

  • The Prove

Despite these laws and judicial decisions, gender inequality in the workplace in India still exists for several reasons:

  1. Long-established cultural norms:

The culture, especially leadership, that prioritizes men’s work over women’s work has a great impact on the increase in inequality between men and women. These standards are often reflected in recruitment, promotion and work in the workplace, and women may face unfair or negative attitudes. For example, women are often seen as less committed to their jobs due to family responsibilities, resulting in reduced opportunities for advancement.

  1. Insufficiency of legislation:

One of the main obstacles to achieving gender equality is the lack of implementation of existing laws. While the provisions of the Equal Pay Act and the POSH Act are sound, they are often ineffective. Many workplaces do not comply with these rules due to lack of knowledge or deliberate non-compliance. Government responsibility for management these laws may not have the resources or will to enforce the law, allowing crime to continue.

  1. Unknown: Lack of Awareness:

There is a lack of awareness among workers, especially female workers, about their rights under these laws. This ignorance prevents them from seeking solutions when they are discriminated against or bullied. Many women are unaware of the existence of the provisions of the POSH Act or the Equal Pay Act, making them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in the workplace.

  1. Resistance change:

Changing business models and practices can be difficult. Traditional hierarchies and powerful powers can pose obstacles to the implementation of gender equality measures. Following the situation, both men and women will protest. For example, some employers may object to flexible working hours or parental leave rights, arguing that they would affect the economy.

  • Continuous Competition and Ongoing challenges 
  1. Gender earns different wages Despite Equal Pay Law:

The gender pay gap remains a serious problem. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 report, women in India earn 65% of what men earn doing similar work. Inequality is most experienced in sectors such as manufacturing, technology and healthcare. The wage gap can be attributed to things like job segregation, job vacancies, and discrimination.

  1. Harassment:

POSH Act misapplied. Many organizations, especially smaller organizations, do not have an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) as defined in the Act. A 2020 survey by the National Bar Council of India found that nearly 70% of women who were harassed at work did not report it due to fear of retaliation or lack of trust pressure in the process. The under-reporting of bullying issues highlights the need to increase awareness and trust in the complaint resolution process.

  1. Glass ceiling:

Women often face a “glass ceiling” in career development. Although the gender ratio is close to equal in entry-level positions, the number of women in senior positions and managers has decreased significantly. A 2020 McKinsey report said women hold only 7% of senior management positions in Indian companies. This inequality is caused by many factors, including unfair practices, lack of education, and the burden of balancing work and family responsibilities.

  1. Work-life balance:

The difficulty of work-life balance mostly affects women who take responsibility for the family. This uncertainty can hinder their career development and promotion. Many women choose to leave the workforce or work part-time to fulfil family responsibilities, resulting in a loss of talent and leadership in organizations.

  • Guidelines for promoting gender equality
  1. Strengthening legal mechanisms for laws such as the Equal Pay Act:

The POSH Act to be effective, the regulatory framework must be strong. Government agencies should conduct regular inspections and penalize organizations that do not comply with the rules. Improved performance monitoring and penalties for violations can prevent discrimination by employers. Additionally, creating a dedicated service and online portals for reporting violations can make it easier for employees to find solutions.

  1. Information and training:

Regular awareness campaigns and training on gender equality and workplace rights can help employees become aware of and report discrimination and harassment. Businesses should invest in such programs as part of their corporate social responsibility. Gender-sensitive training, anti-discrimination policies and legal policies can help create a positive workplace culture. Employers should also ensure that employees understand the procedures for raising complaints and seeking redress under the POSH Act.

  1. Law reform:

Organizations should adopt gender-friendly laws and practices, including flexible working hours, maternity leave for women and men, and transparent recruitment and support. Ensuring women’s representation in leadership roles can also help to raise the glass ceiling. Employers should review their current policies to identify and eliminate gender bias. Using training and leadership development programs specifically for women can help develop women’s skills and prepare them for senior roles.

  1. Change leadership:

A long-term change in society’s gender attitudes is required. This can be achieved through education and media campaigns that challenge gender norms and promote gender equality as a social value. Schools and universities should include gender transition programs in their curricula to promote an early understanding of equality and respect for all genders. The media can play an important role in highlighting the achievements of female leaders and promoting a positive image of gender equality.

5. Support system:

Establishing support systems such as child care centres, women’s education programs, and employee groups can help women manage work-life balance and improve career outcomes. Employers can create daycare centres or provide child care subsidies to support working parents. Mentoring programs can connect young employees with senior leaders who can guide them on their career path. Working groups focused on women’s issues can provide a platform to share experiences, make connections, and advocate for policies that promote gender equality.

  1. Law and Legal reforms
  1. Legal Studies:

A comprehensive review of existing gender equality laws should be conducted to identify gaps and areas for improvement. The review should include consultation with stakeholders, including women’s rights organizations, experts and industry representatives. The aim is to reform and strengthen the laws to better respond to today’s challenges. 

In addition to penalties for violations, heavy penalties for non-compliance with gender equality laws can be a deterrent for employers. The penalty must be severe enough. Eliminate discrimination and comply with legal standards. Government institutions should be required to conduct regular audits and inspections to check compliance and take appropriate measures.

  1. Expansion of the Scope of the Equal Pay Law:

The Equal Pay Law should be expanded to cover all types of wages, including bonuses, social assistance and incentives. This expansion will ensure that women are treated equally in all areas of wages, not just basic wages. Additionally, the bill requires employers to conduct regular pay audits and reports to monitor and address the gender pay gap.

  1. Strengthening the POSH Law:

POSH Act needs to be strengthened to ensure effectiveness and accountability. This may include mandatory training for ICC members, regular reporting and resolution of complaints, and regular reviews of the organisation’s policies on bullying. The government should also establish a central monitoring agency to monitor the implementation of POSH policy in various departments.

  1. Promoting gender diversity in leadership:

Legal reform should promote gender diversity in leadership by setting targets or quotas for women’s representation in corporate bodies and major leaders. These measures can contribute to progress towards gender equality at the highest decision-making levels in the organisation.

Ensuring gender equality in the workplace is not only a legal right but also a moral and business obligation. A gender-balanced workplace creates a diverse and inclusive environment that fosters creativity, innovation and productivity. While the Indian Constitution provides a strong foundation for gender equality, its effective implementation, coupled with social change, is vital to closing the gap between politics and the workplace. Governments, organizations and society at large must continue to work to ensure that gender equality in the workplace becomes a reality for all.

  • Conclusion 

To achieve this goal, administrative processes must be strengthened, information must be developed and policy reforms must be undertaken to eliminate gender discrimination. Institutional attitudes towards gender roles must change and support must be provided to help women balance work and family responsibilities. Legal reform should focus on strengthening penalties for non-compliance, expanding existing laws and promoting gender equality in workplace leadership. By addressing these issues and implementing these recommendations, India can move closer to achieving true gender equality in the workplace.

  • FAQ

Q1: What are the major policies that promote gender equality in the workplace in India?

A1: Important legislation includes the Divorce Act 1976, Violence Against Women at Work, 2013 and various legislation under Chapters 14, 15 and 16.

Q2: What is the Visakha Process?

A2: The Visakha Directive issued by the Supreme Court in 1997 provided a framework to prevent and combat harassment in the workplace and later gave effect to the Women Harassment at Work Act, 2013.

Q3: What problems persist despite the law?

A3: Persistent problems include poor leadership, poor governance, lack of awareness and reluctance to make changes to company structures.

Q4: How can gender equality be improved in the workplace in India?

A4: Improving gender equality requires strict regulation, media coverage, changes in economic policies and changes in attitudes towards the average parent.

Q5: What role does the legislative change play in promoting gender equality?

A5: Legal reform could increase penalties for non-compliance, expand existing laws, and promote gender diversity in leadership actions. A comprehensive review and update of the law would better deal with today’s problems.

  • Source
  • Constitution of India
  • Equal Pay Act, 1976
  • Violence Against Women at Work (Prevention, Prevention and Treatment) Law, 2013
  • World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2021
  • McKinsey & Company, Women in the Workplace 2020
  • National Bar Council of India, Sexual Harassment at Workplace Survey, 2020 

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