The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today called on the Government to begin a ‘wholesale’ review of workplace policies, across Government bodies, to ensure they are inclusive of and supportive to women at every stage of their careers.
Ahead of International Women’s Day, the Mayor has called for all public organisations to ensure the physical health and safety of their women employees are made key priorities and considered alongside more high-profile concerns such as access to flexible working and underrepresentation at senior levels.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride, Sadiq has urged the Government to ensure taxpayer-funded Government bodies are taking their responsibilities to women colleagues seriously and are inclusive and supportive at every level. The Mayor said that for too long they have struggled to reflect the breadth of backgrounds and experiences which exist in their communities, including those of women.
He encouraged public organisations to ‘follow City Hall’s lead’ in making provisions for people experiencing severe gynaecological pain and urged these bodies to offer robust support to victims of domestic violence both practically and pastorally so that no one has to ‘suffer in silence’. This includes adopting City Hall’s sector-leading provision for colleagues fleeing domestic abuse which offers an interest-free loan of up to £10,000 to help rebuild their lives.
The Mayor has called for taxpayer-funded Government bodies to commit to the following:
- Robust provision for colleagues who are victims of domestic abuse.
- A strengthening of sickness and absence policies to ensure that debilitating gynaecological pain is affirmed as grounds for reasonable adjustment or leave.
- A clear strategy for the development of women into positions of leadership in order to generate a pipeline of talent.
- The implementation of a comprehensive policy to support colleagues during the menopause and perimenopause.
- Consideration of the experiences of women and the potential impact on women ahead of major policy changes.
The Mayor made these calls as he joined London’s Deputy Mayor for Communities and Social Justice, Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard in hosting London’s first women’s policy summit at City Hall – the fulfilment of a manifesto commitment to put the experiences and concerns of women at the heart of policy-making. The summit will help inform mayoral policy on how to tackle the skills and employment gap, the soaring cost of living and the housing crisis.
The conference will be opened by feminist scholar and activist Helen Pankhurst, feature a keynote intervention from the Women’s Budget Group and a speech by the Mayor. It will also include detailed discussions of some of the most pressing issues facing women in London, with the findings to be compiled and used by City Hall to help inform future policy.
The conference has been developed in partnership with the Women’s Resource Centre and builds on research commissioned by the Mayor in 2020 that revealed women had experienced disproportionate economic, social and psychological impacts as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It also follows YouGov data from 2022 that shows that despite 24 per cent of women experiencing periods so painful they affected their ability to work each month, 40 per cent of these women said they had never taken time off work and a further 23 per cent only did so ‘sometimes’ or ‘rarely’.
The Mayor is committed to ensuring women are fully supported at work. That is why Sadiq has made commitments to reporting on the gender pay gap, furthering equality and improving diversity central tenets of his flagship workplace accreditation – the Good Work Standard – with which more than 115 London organisations are now accredited. The London Recovery Board have further encouraged organisations across London to improve representation in the workplace and promote employment rights through the Building a Fairer City Plan.
Since 2016, the Mayor has overhauled City Hall’s workplace offering to better support women at all stages and backgrounds. This has included the provision of sector-leading support for colleagues who are experiencing domestic violence, tailored training to enable career progression through the leadership programme Our Time, the development of a world-leading menopause policy, enhanced caring, adoptive and shared parental leave, the introduction of premature and neonatal baby leave and significant progress toward the elimination of the gender pay gap.
City Hall has also led the way in breaking workplace taboos and supporting Londoners experiencing period poverty through the provision of free menstrual hygiene products onsite.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said:“The pandemic and the cost of living crisis have shone a light on gaping inequalities in our society and it simply isn’t right that, in 2023, women continue to face significant barriers in accessing housing, employment and skills. “As Mayor of this great city and as a proud feminist, I refuse to accept gender-based injustice as inevitable. It is vital that all public bodies are safe havens for women and must lead by example in offering women the best possible place to work.
“Too often the experiences of women have been an afterthought in shaping policy, but I am committed to ensuring that they will be front and centre as we work to build a fairer, safer and more prosperous London for everyone.”