Discrimination in the Workplace Demystified
- Date: Tuesday 10th November 2015
Public Sector workers must now speak fluent English in order to secure or maintain a job in a customer facing environment. At the moment, the government is consulting on a code of practice due to be issued after 8th December 2015, giving clearer guidelines on how assessment may be carried out to determine if a person is proficient in English or Welsh.
In the wake of this announcement, new concerns have arisen in relation to discrimination in the workplace and compliance with the Equality Act.
In this article, we will give you a quick 5-step guide on how to make sure that you act in line with anti-discrimination laws.
· Understand the Equality Act
o Following reforms, the Equality Act 2010 is now the only piece of legislation to read in order to understand your obligations as an employer. It legally protects anybody with ‘protected characteristics’ from discrimination in the workplace: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents
o ‘Protected characteristics’ are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation.
o Disabilities’ can include serious illnesses such as cancer or HIV as well as registered disabilities and conditions which affect the individual in their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities in the long term (usually in excess of around 12 months although this is only a guideline).
· Have a Policy
Creating a policy on Bullying, Harassment, Discrimination and Equal Opportunities is not just a paperwork exercise. By examining your business and reflecting on the way your organisation deals with staff, customers and suppliers, you are fulfilling your duty of encouraging non-discriminatory practices in the workplace.
· Train your Staff
If you work in a large, diverse organisation or have regular contact with the public, then an in-depth training session on Equality and Diversity could be a good idea. Many individuals don’t understand what discrimination actually is and often their actions are not malicious but unwitting.
For smaller organisations, it is still important that Directors and Managers receive some formal training but you may then wish to conduct shorter toolbox talks with staff.
· Review your Procedures
Discrimination most commonly occurs during recruitment or indirectly through gender-gaps on pay and promotion. Ask for advice if you are an inexperienced recruiter, in order to ensure a thorough, prejudice-free process. Keeping statics on staff demographics can also help you analyse how much you really drive diversity in the workplace - you may be surprised.
· Be open to Change
The Equality Act has often been seen as an instrument for tribunal cases and notorious welfare hunters. Employers should however not forget that the Equality Act has enabled countless individuals to be in work, rather than on benefits. And if you or a friend or relative are affected by any of the protected characteristics within the Act, you will understand how important it is to promote inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
Once you understand the principle of ‘reasonable adjustments’, and open your mind to making changes to the way in which things are done, you will gain a new level of trust and engagement from employees, which will ultimately have a positive effect on your bottom line.
At SSG we now offer HR training on a broad range of subjects, including Equality and Diversity. For further information, please contact our team who will be happy to assist.