chapter  1
12 Pages

EMPLOYMENT LAW AND FEMINISM

ByAnne Morris and Thérèse O’Donnell

The series of Feminist Perspectives on…began with the Foundational Subjects of Law, and one of its stated aims was to bring feminist perspectives to bear on areas of the law which had not traditionally been seen as obvious candidates for that kind of analysis.1 In that sense, employment law might be thought to be different, in that significant chunks of it are recognisably and directly to do with women (sex discrimination, equal pay, maternity rights), and this means that women are at once identifiable as appropriate or ‘proper’ subjects within that category of legal study. This can, however, be a mixed blessing, since it offers the temptation to ‘ghettoise’ and assume that there are particular topics (‘women’s issues’) with which feminists should concern themselves (or, indeed, to which they should restrict themselves). Whilst, at the very least, this denies the wider relevance of feminism, it also ignores the fact that a piecemeal approach is not going to achieve the fundamental changes which are necessary if women are to be able to participate fully and equally in society-a participation which requires a just reward for the work they do and the contributions they make, both paid and unpaid. Further, focusing only on the laws which purport to deal with discrimination can encourage the view that, since there are now laws which call for equal pay, outlaw sex discrimination and provide for maternity leave, any lingering ‘inequalities’ must, by definition, result from the different choices which women make in their lives, rather than from conscious or unconscious bias.