Following the removal of employment tribunal fees, discrimination claims bought by employees continue to rise. Employers have a number of legal obligations to prevent discrimination at work. Ensuring fairness in the workplace is also a vital part of any successful business, helping to increase staff recruitment and retention and ensure a productive workforce.
Our training session on 1 May 2019 will go through the legal obligations placed on employers under the Equality Act and look at practical examples to assist employers identify the most common situations which may place them at risk, and how to address these. Ahead of our training session we’ve set out some of our top tips for employers to consider below.
The starting point for all employers is an up to date and compliant equality and diversity policy, ideally coupled with an anti-harassment and bullying policy. These policies should be used to educate employees as to the forms of discrimination and the behaviours that are not permissible at work. They should provide a clear mechanism for employees to raise concerns regarding equality at work and clearly set out the employer’s policies on key risk areas such as recruitment.
Of course it is not enough for employers to simply have a policy in place. Employers must also ensure that all employees receive regular training on equality and diversity issues. Training should ideally provide examples to help employees understand those comments or actions which are inappropriate at work, and cover areas such as unconscious bias and different individuals’ perceptions as to what is offensive or hurtful, even if meant in jest.
Most employers are mindful of the need not to directly discriminate against employees with protected characteristics. However, indirect discrimination can be easier to miss. When implementing new policies or changes in the workplace, employers should always be mindful as to whether there is an indirect discrimination risk, for example when changing rota hours, could this have a detrimental impact on women due to child care responsibilities? When changing office location or requiring longer travel, could this have a detrimental impact on disabled employees? If a potential impact is identified, steps should then be taken to prevent or mitigate this impact where possible.
When an employee raises concerns regarding discrimination it is important that you treat these seriously and investigate issues promptly. Most concerns will need to be addressed via your grievance procedure. Ensure that you carry out investigations sensitively and consider the employee’s need for support whilst the process is ongoing, particularly if their complaint relates to their line manager or someone working in close proximity with them.
Many employers are not aware that their liability for discrimination extends to incidents that take place outside of working hours, provided there is a sufficient connection with work. For example, an employer will usually be responsible for discrimination that occurs at an office party or informal office drinks. Employees should be reminded that their obligation to act appropriately extends to work related activities outside of the office. Again, where complaints are raised, employers should ensure that these are investigated and addressed in the same way.
If you would like to attend our training session on 1 May 2019 exploring employer’s legal obligations in relation to equality and diversity further and looking at practical case studies on some of the above issues, please email Sophie Warren.
To view all of our current training sessions available please follow this link.