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Women in the workplace


Committed to promoting equal rights for women

Prospect is committed to fighting for equality of opportunity for women both in the workplace and within society generally. We believe in a better working life for women.

Equal pay

woman workerDespite years of legislation promoting equal pay, there remains a pay gap of 18% between women and men working full-time. Prospect continues to campaign to close this pay gap. We have produced a negotiator's guide on equal pay (member log-in required).

The TUC has produced a series of films about the fight for equal pay. They include oral history interviews with women and union representatives involved in some of the major equal pay cases since 1968. The short and long versions of all the films on the website, plus a longer film on the history of the fight for equal pay 'The Equal Pay Story: scenes from a turbulent history' are available on DVD from TUC Publications.

Women across the EU continue to earn an average of 16.4% less than men, according to figures released by the European Commission on European Equal Pay Day. A video clip has been produced highlighting existing pay inequalities between women and men. The European Commission also provides information about the gender pay gap and what the EU is doing to close the gap.

Career development

Prospect campaigns to ensure that women are equally able to progress their careers by: pressing for an end to stereotyped attitudes in the workplace; the introduction of impartial job appraisal schemes; fair and open promotion opportunities. We also promote a charter for women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations.

Work-life balance

We recognise that it continues to be mainly women who struggle to meet the demands of work and home responsibilities. We therefore press employers to introduce comprehensive work-life balance policies which should cover:

  • flexible working arrangements, including career breaks
  • part-time working and job sharing opportunities
  • enhanced maternity, paternity, parental and adoption leave
  • assistance with childcare and elder care.

Prospect has produced guidance for negotiators and representatives on the alternative working patterns available  which contribute to good work-life balance policies, including  good practice checklists and examples of where  the policies work well.

We have also produced guidance on the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees.  All employees now  have the right to request flexible working  –  whether this is a change in working hours, working patterns or their work location – for any reason at all, not just caring responsibilities. Our guidance on flexible working and work-life balance has been brought together into a model policy to assist negotiators and reps.

Harassment and discrimination

Prospect believes that everyone has the right to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. We seek to ensure that all workplaces have clear policies and procedures on these issues. We will provide help and advice for members if they are experiencing harassment or discrimination at work.

Women in STEM

Women account for just one in 10 of all employees in science, engineering and technology occupations. Visit the women in science page of our website to find out about Prospect's campaigning to improve the position of women in STEM and read our Charter for action.


Prospect encourages participation of women members at all levels of the union. We can provide specialist training for our women members and we facilitate two networks:

Womanet: keeps Prospect women members in touch with each other, provides advice and support, and enables the union to draw upon members' experiences.

Wisenet: Prospect's Women in Science and Engineering network campaigns to keep women's needs on the SET agenda and serves as a contact for women scientists and engineers in Prospect. 

Visit the main equalities page for the terms of reference for these two networks.

Pregnancy and maternity

Prospect has produced a members' guide on maternity rights,  and also on parental and family leave.  We have also produced  an Equality Briefing on the provisions regarding Shared Parental Leave which come into effect in  April 2015.

See also the  Valuing Maternity website, the campaigning organisation which provides  advice and guidance on pregnancy and maternity, as well as campaigning for  job security; maternity and parental leave that promotes real equality; and services that support safe and healthy pregnancy.

The Pregnancy Test: Ending Discrimination at Work for New Mothers [Report]

This TUC report says pregnancy and motherhood can seriously affect a woman’s career. Around a quarter of women don’t return to work after maternity leave, and one in six of the mums who do go back, change jobs because their employer won’t allow them to work reduced or flexible hours. It identifies ten ways pregnant women and new mothers are mistreated at work and five things that need to change. Download The Pregnancy Test report [PDF]

Pregnancy discrimination is not a myth [Video]

Pregnancy discrimination can have a scarring effect on women’s careers. Rebecca Raven talks about how her life was changed by pregnancy discrimination. Watch video

Maternity Action  has published a manifesto, Valuing families, valuing maternity  for the general election 2015,  which sets out a series of policy actions under 3 headings:  Maternity & Work; Maternity and Justice; and Maternity and Healthcare.

Shared Parental Leave

The provisions under the Children and Families Act introducing shared parental leave and pay came into effect on 1 December 2014. The provisions will apply for children born or adopted on or after 5 April 2015.

Shared parental leave will enable eligible parents to share up to 50 weeks leave and will allow them flexibility to decide whether they take it in turns to take the time off to look after the child or to be off work at the same time. The amount of paid leave available mirrors the statutory maternity leave arrangements: i.e. 39 weeks available at the statutory minimum pay and 13 weeks unpaid leave - less the 2 weeks compulsory leave directly following the birth/adoption.

However, there are some complex eligibility criteria, as well as notification requirements involved in using the new SPL rights. See our advice and guidance in Equality Briefing No 37.


The TUC has produced guidance on Time off and pay for adoptive parents – covering rights to time off to attend adoption appointments, adoption leave and pay, paternity leave and pay, SPL, unpaid parental leave, flexible working and time off for emergencies.


The TUC has produced guidance on Time off and pay for parents having a child through surrogacy – covering rights to time off to attend ante-natal appointments, rights to adoption leave and pay, paternity leave and pay, SPL, unpaid parental leave, flexible working and time off for emergencies.

Breastfeeding at work

ACAS has produced guidance for employers on accommodating breastfeeding on return to work [PDF]. It is intended to help employers and employees better manage requests to breastfeed in the workplace. This can be a sensitive issue to approach, but it is important to help the mother's return to work after maternity leave and is beneficial for the well-being of both the mother and child. In most instances requests will be for facilities to express and store milk, and time away from work to do so. The guidance sets out what employers are required to do by law and also gives examples of good practice.

International Women's Day: 8 March

International Women's Day has been observed since in the early 1900's, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world, so make a difference, think globally and act locally! Make everyday International Women's Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.

Domestic violence

A guide for the workplace

The TUC has produced guidance which is aimed at union reps and employers who need advice on dealing with the impact of domestic violence in the workplace. It includes facts and figures about the prevalence of this crime, case studies, and advice on drawing up a workplace policy to address the key issues of support, referral, and confidentiality.

See our feature on supporting members experiencing Domestic Violence, which includes key principles for a workplace agreement in the November 2013 issue of Profile. Prospect has also been closely involved wth drafting the materials for UNI Global Union's project on Breaking the Circle of Domesic Violence, which includes posters, guidance and model policies.

The scale of the problem of Domestic Violence is huge. In the UK, in any one year, more  than one in five victims of domestic violence take time off work because of abuse and two per cent lose their jobs as a direct result of the abuse.

In 2013 the TUC conducted a survey to find out more about how domestic violence affects working lives and the role that employers, colleagues and union reps can play in supporting those experiencing domestic abuse.The TUC survey was open to anyone who has either experienced domestic violence themselves or has a friend or colleague who has experienced domestic violence. Download the report Domestic Violence and the workplace - A TUC Survey Report [PDF]

Pulling the punches: defeating domestic violence by Luke Daniels

This is the first book addressed specifically to perpetrators of domestic violence who want to stop the violence, but survivors will find much in it that gives them power in the abusive relationship and offers hints for their safety.

Breast Cancer Care's guide to best practice in the workplace

Breast Cancer Care has launched a campaign called EMPLOY aimed at supporting employers and employees and providing best practice for the workplace. The resources includes a policy briefing, and guidance for employers, as well as a number of other resources to support a member of staff with breast cancer. All these resources can be downloaded from Breast Cancer Care's employ campaign website

Women's asylum charter

Prospect has endorsed this Charter which is an initiative set up by the Refugee Women's Resource Project at Asylum Aid. It is a framework of principles aimed at persuading the UK Border Agency to take both a strategic approach to the needs of women seeking asylum and to put in place the operational procedures and safeguards that will remove the discriminatory barriers they face. Further information about the Charter can be found at the Asylum Aid website.


WISE - Women into Science and Engineering - campaigns to encourage more girls and women to consider careers in science and engineering.

The work to eliminate sex discrimination and oversee implementation of the Equality Act, is the responsibility of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Equality briefings and resources

Equality Briefings provide advice and guidance on a range of equalities issues and a Briefing has been produced with links to Prospect's resources for equality, including our guides, posters and leaflets etc.

Equality Briefings

Resources for Equality