Navigating the multigenerational workforce and advocating for gender pay equality in the Thai legal sphere

Thursday 25 April 2024

Rajen Ramiah
SCL Nishimura & Asahi, Bangkok

In the rapidly evolving landscape of the modern workplace, effective management of a multigenerational workforce remains an enduring challenge. This issue is particularly pronounced in the context of law firms in Thailand, where traditional values intersect with modern practices. The issue of gender pay equality also remains a pressing concern, despite legal protections and constitutional guarantees designed to bridge the gap. This article explores the complexities of managing a multigenerational workforce at a Thai law firm, along with steps to address gender-based pay disparities.

Thailand’s workforce encompasses persons from a diverse array of generations, from 'baby boomers' to Generation Z, along with a wide range of unique characteristics, preferences and working styles. In a law firm setting, this diversity presents both opportunities and challenges. Traditional values, such as respect for hierarchy and authority, may clash with modern preferences for flexibility and innovation. Effective management of a multigenerational workforce requires a nuanced approach that accommodates employees’ diverse needs and preferences.

One key challenge when managing a multigenerational workforce is communication. Persons from different generations commonly exhibit different communication styles and preferences, which can lead to misunderstandings and conflict. For example, younger persons may prefer to communicate digitally, while older persons often prefer face-to-face interactions. Bridging communication gaps requires proactive efforts to foster understanding and collaboration across generations.

This was particularly evident during the pandemic, when the older generations of partners and senior associates found it challenging to instruct junior lawyers and perform training activities. ‘Younger’ lawyers often (though not always) adopted the use of technology more easily than their older counterparts; post-pandemic, partners from older generations often have wanted younger lawyers to return to the office, whereas many younger lawyers prefer to work remotely. How should we balance these concerns?

The pandemic equipped us with increased flexibility in the realm of remote work. Having said that, perhaps younger lawyers face a disadvantage when they cannot benefit from face-to-face, one-to-one coaching and guidance from experienced senior partners. Moreover, the development of analytical thinking may be limited when learning is not performed in person. The cultural hierarchy dictates that younger people should listen and not ask questions, although younger generations sometimes challenge this as antiquated thinking. Changing this mindset is a challenge, but not impossible.

Differing expectations regarding work-life balance present another challenge. Members of older generations may prioritise stability and dedication to work, while younger persons often value flexibility and autonomy – although it is important to remember that attitudes and priorities are individual, and it is dangerous to assume that all members of a given generation share a certain attitude or preference. Balancing these competing priorities requires flexibility in work arrangements and policies to accommodate the diverse needs of employees at different stages of careers and lives.

The pandemic also made many people realise it is possible to break away from traditional work environments (ie, traditional office work), with the post-pandemic understanding that an ‘office’ is anywhere you want to be, as long as you can complete your work.

To manage multigenerational workforces effectively, Thai law firms should prioritise inclusivity and diversity. This may include mentorship programmes, intergenerational team-building activities and training initiatives to promote understanding for, and collaboration with, different working styles, attitudes and preferences. By embracing diversity and fostering a culture of inclusion, legal firms can harness the collective strengths of multigenerational workforces to drive innovation and success.

Creating balance in the workplace is a challenge. In addition, the multigenerational workforce may contribute to imbalances in gender pay equality.

In Thailand, the Gender Equality Act 2015[1] prohibits ‘unfair gender discrimination in any act or omission of the act which causes division, discrimination or limitation of any right and benefit, either directly or indirectly, without justification, due to the fact that a person is male or female, or of a different appearance from his/her sex at birth’, which is an express guarantee of equal rights and freedoms to all individuals, and a prohibition of discrimination based on gender.

In addition, the Labour Protection Act 1998 guarantees equal treatment of all employees, and sections 4 and 27 of the Thai Constitution state that all persons are equal before the law, have rights and liberties and are to be protected equally under the law. The Thai Constitution specifically prohibits gender discrimination in employment and ensures equal opportunities in the workplace. These constitutional provisions establish a legal foundation for addressing gender pay inequality and promoting gender equality in the Thai workforce.

Despite legal protections and constitutional guarantees, gender pay inequality remains a persistent issue in Thailand. Women continue to earn less than their male counterparts for the same work, perpetuating systemic inequality and hindering economic development. This disparity not only undermines the rights and dignity of women but also stifles overall productivity and growth.

With the legal framework firmly established, why does gender-based pay inequality persist? In Thailand, these provisions should ensure fairness, yet women frequently remain confined to lower-paying positions and encounter barriers to advancement.

The complexities of managing a multigenerational workforce at Thai law firms intertwine with the imperative to ensure gender pay equality. Despite legal safeguards and constitutional assurances, gender pay disparity remains entrenched in Thailand’s employment practices. This issue is exacerbated by diverse generational dynamics. Legal frameworks provide a foundation, but cannot dismantle systemic inequality on their own. A multifaceted approach to managing multigenerational teams and advocating for gender equality is required. Law firms must address these challenges by fostering inclusivity, promoting diversity in leadership and advocating for policy reforms. By championing transparent salary policies, supporting gender diversity initiatives and offering flexible work arrangements, firms can cultivate an environment where all employees, regardless of gender or generational background, can thrive. Through collaborative advocacy and steadfast commitment, law firms can create a more equitable and inclusive workplace for all persons, of all generations.

Addressing gender pay inequality requires a multifaceted approach that involves employers, policymakers and society at large. Law firms in Thailand can play a vital role in promoting gender equality within their organisations and advocating for systemic change.

Helpful steps toward gender pay equality

  1. Transparent salary policies: Law firms should adopt transparent salary policies that ensure equal pay for all persons, regardless of gender. This includes performing regular audits to identify and address any gender-based pay discrepancies. By fostering transparency and accountability, law firms can create a fair and equitable compensation structure that rewards employees based on individual skills, qualifications and contributions, regardless of gender.
  2. Promotion of gender diversity: Firms should take active steps to promote gender diversity in leadership positions and decision-making roles. This may involve the implementation of affirmative action programmes and mentoring initiatives. By fostering a culture of inclusivity and providing opportunities for all persons, of all genders, to excel and thrive on an equal basis, firms can tap into a diverse talent pool and drive innovation and success.
  3. Training and awareness programmes: Training and awareness programmes on gender equality can help foster a culture of inclusion and respect within an organisation. These programmes should address unconscious bias, promote diversity and empower employees to challenge discriminatory practices. By raising awareness and fostering a culture of accountability, firms can create a supportive and inclusive workplace in which all employees feel valued and respected.
  4. Flexible working arrangements: Offering flexible working arrangements, such as telecommuting and flexible hours, can help alleviate the burden of caregiving responsibilities, which historically have been disproportionately borne by women. This enables employees to balance work and family commitments more effectively and promotes greater participation by and retention of women in the workforce. By accommodating the diverse needs of employees, firms can create a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture that values work-life balance and promotes employee well-being.
  5. Advocacy and collaboration: Law firms should collaborate with industry associations, advocacy groups and government agencies to advocate for policy reforms that promote gender equality in the workplace. This may involve lobbying for legislative changes, participating in public awareness campaigns and supporting initiatives that advance gender equality. Law firms can use their influence and resources to drive meaningful change and contribute to a more equitable and inclusive society.

Managing a multigenerational workforce and addressing gender pay inequality are complex challenges that require concerted efforts from all persons, particularly those in positions of authority. It is imperative that Thai law firms embrace diversity and inclusivity while advocating for gender equality, both within their own structures and in society at large. By implementing transparent policies, promoting diversity and advocating for systemic change, law firms can contribute to the establishment of more equitable and inclusive workplaces. By addressing gender pay disparities, law firms can foster a culture of fairness and respect that benefits employees, businesses, and society as a whole. Together, let us work to build a future in which every individual has a truly equal opportunity to succeed.


[1] Gender Equality Act B.E. 2558 [2015].