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How to Promote Equality and Avoid Discrimination in the Workplace

Q- What am I?

  • I am experienced by at least 1 in 4 employees.
  • I cost the UK Economy £127bn in lost output every year.
  • My Employment Tribunal awards are uncapped. Between 2018 and 2019 my average tribunal award was £28,371 and my highest award was £416,015!
  • My claims don’t require any qualifying service- in fact, get the wording of that job advert wrong and my claimant may never need to even walk through your door!

A- I am discrimination and underestimating the damage I can do to your business may be the costliest mistake you ever make.

Scary isn’t it?  However, whilst employers need to be aware of the cold hard facts regarding discrimination; Equality should never be viewed simply as a ‘legal tick box exercise’. Instead employers need to act upon their moral (as well as legal) responsibility to provide a safe place for their workforce and in this article, we look at some practical steps to do just that.

What is Equality?

ACAS defines Equality in the workplace as,

‘Equal job opportunities and fairness for employees and job applicants. You must not treat people unfairly because of reasons protected by discrimination law (‘protected characteristics’). For example, because of a person’s sex, age, or race.

For guidance on the forms of discrimination and how to avoid common discriminatory pitfalls during recruitment, please see our previous HR24 articles:

What is an Equality Policy, why is it important?

Above all, an equality policy or statement sets out your commitment as a company to promote equality and combat discrimination.

The benefits include:

  • Helping to prevent legal action
  • Attracting the best and most diverse talent
  • Makes for a happier, safer environment for your workforce which in turn reduces workplace conflict
  • Improves staff retention

Does having an Equal Opportunities policy mean my company is automatically protected if anyone tries to bring a discrimination claim against my business?

No.

Equal Opportunities statements and policies are important, but their existence alone is not sufficient to protect your business.

So many handbooks and policy documents languish on office shelves gathering dust. Little do those managers know that there exists a policy that they are responsible for implementing which they have received little to no training on.

If this applies to your business, then you effectively don’t have any such policies in place at all.

At Avensure we support our clients in compiling bespoke HR Documentation such as Employee Handbooks and contracts of employment. If you have any questions regarding this vital service, then please contact us.

I am ploughing all my energy into keeping my business afloat at the moment. I just don’t have the time or resource to train staff on equality but at the same time, I know that if I got hit with a discrimination claim this could spell the end of my business. What can I do?

Paying out excessive training costs is not something any company can afford but when you consider the potential cost of a claim, regular equality and diversity training should be an essential business investment.

There is a lot of support out there regarding training in this area, such as on-line training.

Here at Avensure, as well as providing the policy documents you need, we are always on hand to address any queries you may have in respect of equality. If you are faced with a dispute then our experts will guide you step-by-step though the handling of that dispute, providing bespoke correspondence and guidance throughout.

WATCH THIS SPACE- Avensure will soon be introducing interactive online webinars on a variety of topics including equality, discrimination and managing workplace disputes.  More details to follow.

All my staff undertook equality and diversity training as part of their induction. Is this enough or do I need to retrain?

Your commitment to equality needs to be ongoing, you certainly need to ensure that anyone promoted into a role where they will have staff reporting directly into them are aware of not only your equality policy but how to deal with resolving any disputes via policies such as your company grievance procedure or personal harassment policy.

It is good practice and not at all time consuming to make a note in your diary to redistribute your equality policy. You may want to follow this up with staff meetings or focus groups where the policy is discussed. If you don’t have a policy in place, then it is a good idea to involve your workplace in discussions about introducing such a policy.

NEXT WEEK- More on the topic of resolving workplace disputes and grievances in next week’s newsletter.

My organisation is very diverse, many of my workforce (including myself) have protected characteristics. I am therefore very confident that my organisation is a safe place for all, free from hostility and bias. I operate a zero tolerance stance on any kinds of discrimination, harassment, or victimisation. However, I cannot be responsible for the actions of a rogue few.

The culture of an organisation is vital and certainly filters from the top down.

However, in the same way that an old dusty policy cannot offer you immunity from claims, having a diverse workforce does not mean that problems cannot arise. Oh, and yes, your company is responsible for any acts of discrimination committed by a member of your workforce.

A member of staff has raised a formal complaint alleging racism against their manager, following what they allege to be an unfair recruitment practices which resulted in them being turned down for a promotion. Initial investigations show that the complaint is likely to be upheld. What do I do next?

As we will show in next week’s article, the purpose of having a robust approach to handling complaints not only resolves workplace disputes but it can also uncover serious issues such as this.

In terms of what you do next, it is important that you not only uphold their concerns but that you give a very clear undertaking as to what will be done to resolve this. If this has been a blatant act of discrimination, then you must commit to dealing with the matter in accordance with your disciplinary procedure.

If you have identified that the manager in question did not have sufficient training in ensuring that they carried out a fair recruitment exercise in line with your equality policy, then you make clear that this will be addressed, how it will be addressed and when.

This type of situation is sadly all too common and reinforces the importance of ensuring that you have a continual and ongoing commitment to equality. 

In summary:

  • Be clear on your equality commitments
  • Have a clear plan on how you will communicate them
  • Ensure effective training is in place to deliver them
  • Be consistent and robust in handling any breaches of those commitments

Please ensure that you seek advice from our experts as there is not always a ‘one size fits all’ answer to a lot of these scenarios and mistakes will be ever more costly for your business in the current climate. Please quote your Client Account Number on all correspondence and telephone calls. 24-hour client advice line: 0330 100 8704

FACT OR FICTION?

  1. An Equality Policy is a legal requirement.

FICTION

An equality policy is not a legal requirement, but it is certainly good practice and your first step in promoting equality in your organisation.

  1. Equality and diversity are just ‘political correctness gone mad’

FICTION!

This is precisely the kind of attitude that can derail your business commitments to equality. If you hear this during training, staff meetings etc., challenge it immediately.

  1. We may be asked to show how we comply with equality legislation in order to procure contracts.

FACT

It can be a deal a breaker. After all wouldn’t you want to make sure that if you were asking your workforce to attend the premises of a client/contractor that they are going to be protected? If not, then you should because you can still be liable for any potential fallout.

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2020-07-17T11:16:56+01:00July 17th, 2020|
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