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Diversity and inclusion at work are vital to ensure everyone has the same opportunities and to help the business thrive. However, common issues can occur when onboarding new employees and as a company grows, and some people may not be as accommodating as they should be.
As a business owner or manager in the workplace, you must understand what constitutes workplace discrimination, so you can be sure that you do all you can to reduce the risk of bias and discriminatory behaviour in your workplace.
To eliminate discrimination, we first should look at what is meant by employment and workplace discrimination.
What is discrimination?
It is when someone is in a less favourable position or treated less favourably due to a protected characteristic within the Equality Act 2010: Guidance.
2. Marriage and civil partnerships
5. Religion and belief
6. Sexual Orientation
7. Pregnancy and Maternity
9. Gender re-assignment
Employers are responsible for ensuring that all employees and workers, including themselves, do not discriminate against anyone. The consequences can be an unlimited fine and compensation alongside the possibility of damaging publicity for your business.
Getting legal advice
When defending a claim against you or when you are the victim of discrimination, it’s essential to engage the services of a law firm, such as O’Donnell Solicitors, to ensure you are aware of the legal process and receive clear advice on how best to proceed.
Where any individual is offended by the comments and actions of others, even when they are not the direct victim of the discrimination, they can bring a claim. They do not have to be a direct victim or be of the same protected characteristic. They can be upset or offended by the discriminatory act. Fellow employees can bring a claim based on what they have heard or seen happen to others. Some examples include:
- Direct discrimination – A person will have been treated less favourably than someone who does not have that protected characteristic. This has no defence, except where it can be proved that direct discrimination is proportionate to achieve a legitimate business aim.
- Indirect discrimination – Where there is a criterion, practice or provision applicable to a group of people, yet this has a disproportionate effect on others with a particular protected characteristic or is disadvantaged due to their protected characteristic. The only defence is where there is proof of a legitimate business need, and attempts have been made to explore options to mitigate or make any reasonable adjustments that have failed.
- Disability – Section 20 of the Equality Act 2010 places a statutory duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments within the workplace to assist disabled employees in carrying out their duties.
- Victimisation – Where another person mistreats an employee in the workplace because they made or supported a complaint under the equality act.
- Harassment – Under sections 26 and 40 of the Equality Act, unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic creates an unpleasant or uncomfortable environment for the worker. The incidents can be one-off or ongoing actions that give rise to a claim under the act.
Employees and candidates for a potential position can feel discriminatory consequences. There can be a claim for discrimination from the beginning of the recruitment process; the only requirement is that a claim is brought within three months of the discriminatory act. Unlike unfair dismissal, there is no requirement for a qualifying period of engagement with the business to bring a claim.
Employers should have policies and procedures that determine what the business expects from them and what they can expect in return. For example, there should be policies covering discrimination, bullying and harassment within a staff handbook, and ongoing regular training and updates should be provided.
If you have concerns, it is always wise to consult with well-versed employment law teams to ensure you and your employees are protected with the essential practices and policies required to operate a non-discriminatory workplace effectively. Discriminatory claims can cost companies unlimited fines, uncapped compensation, and having to pay the claimant’s legal costs, so it is worthwhile ensuring your company is doing all it can to remove discrimination in the workplace.
You may also like: When Can You Sue for Gender Discrimination?
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