Equally Safe at Work launches in NHS boards, and the third sector

Following the success of Close the Gap’s employer accreditation programme, Equally Safe at Work, with local authorities, we are pleased to be launching a new pilot of the programme with the NHS and the third sector. The evaluation of the pilot with local authorities highlighted that Equally Safe at Work was an important lever for enabling employers to take substantive action on gender equality and demonstrate leadership in violence against women.

This expansion of Equally Safe at Work with the NHS and third sector will provide the new group of employers with a framework to guide work on developing gender-sensitive employment policies and practice. The NHS boards participating in the pilot are Ayrshire & Arran, Dumfries & Galloway, Public Health Scotland, and Healthcare Improvement Scotland. The third sector employers are ACOSVO, Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland, Enable Scotland, PKVAS and Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire. Through participating in the pilot, these organisations are taking steps to address the causes of gender inequality in the workplace which is essential for preventing violence against women. Addressing women’s inequality in the workplace and in the wider labour market requires targeted action from employers, including those in the public and third sector.

Women experience significant barriers to equality in the workplace. Recent data highlights a 18% gender pay gap in the third sector in Scotland. This is caused by a number of interconnected factors including women’s concentration in low-paid, undervalued work, a lack of good quality flexible work, women’s greater propensity to have caring roles, and a lack of women at senior levels. Women’s experiences of men’s violence also makes it difficult for women to do their job to the best of their ability, and in some cases, women are forced out of work entirely, creating additional barriers to gender equality at work.

Outline of Scotland in lime on the left with text on the right that reads 'there is a 18% gender pay gap in the third sector in Scotland.'

In the health and social care sector, women make up the vast majority of the NHS workforce, yet they are largely absent from senior management and leadership roles. While 54% of health service chief executives are women, only 39% of health board chairs are women and only 42% are consultants. The Women’s Health Plan highlights the importance of addressing workplace inequalities in order to reduce inequalities in outcomes for women’s general health.

Image of a stethoscope on the right with text on the left that reads 'over 3 in 4 of the NHS workforce are women but they are underrepresented among doctors and consultants, especially in cardiology and surgery.'

Equally Safe at Work will support third sector and NHS employers to review current and develop practice that takes account of women’s experience of employment.

What happens next

Over the next 12 months, early adopter employers across health and social care and the third sector will be supported by Close the Gap to work towards the development tier of the programme. To achieve development accreditation, employers will have to meet criteria across six themes key to advancing women’s labour market equality:

  • Leadership
  • Data
  • Flexible working
  • Occupational segregation
  • Workplace culture
  • Violence against women

This will be achieved through undertaking a range of activities, which will improve awareness of the causes and consequences of women’s inequality and increase understanding of employers’ critical role in supporting victim-survivors and preventing violence against women. Activities include building capacity in senior leaders; publishing gender pay gap information; reviewing flexible working practice; distributing awareness-raising material on violence against women; and ensuring support mechanisms are in place for victim-survivors.

A shadow group will also be formed for employers in these sectors who will be able to benefit from shared learning and expertise from the early adopters’ group, with a view to undertaking the accreditation programme in the future.

The evaluation of the programme will be key to the future development of Equally Safe at Work and completed throughout the pilot. Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected during the accreditation period. This will include capturing employee attitudes and behaviours through an employee survey, as well as holding focus groups with women working in lower paid roles.

We look forward to working with our new groups of employers to make real changes for women working in Scotland. To find out more about the programme, visit Equally Safe at Work.

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