The Equality Act 2010 now incorporates the various previous statutes covering race, sex, age and disability discrimination.
The key thing that employers need to bear in mind is that their perception of reasonableness and fairness is no guarantee to getting things right. There are plenty of elephant traps into which even the most cautious employer can fall.
Almost always it is important to have some key policy documents covering equal opportunities and harassment. Such documents should not be locked away! To be effective, they must be communicated to the staff.
Those responsible for managing staff must have some training on what is covered by discrimination and how to avoid claims.
Just as examples:
In recruiting new staff, do you ask a standard question; “Are you disabled?” or do you ask: “Please let us know of any adjustments you think we should make to assist you in any disability you may have, including adjustments for attending interview”? Ask the former question and the unsuccessful candidate may argue that she/he did not get the job because of disability. Ask the latter and it would be hard for the candidate to argue the same case.
For the same sort of reasons, most job application forms do not seek information as to the candidate’s age – age discrimination being the risk factor.
You want a worker to shift 100kg sacks of cement all day long. Do you advertise for a Gorilla look-a-like He man or do you advertise for a “person”? And hold on! Before even getting to that step, you need to work out whether the manual shifting of such sacks would be discriminatory against women because fewer women than men can carry out such tasks. So you need to consider whether the job could be done just as easily by the use of fork lifts or other mechanised carrying systems which could as well be carried out by a woman as a man.
Our experience is that most employers really do go the extra mile to avoid discrimination but even then they can unexpectedly fall foul of the law.
We are always happy to advise – preferably before things go wrong.
There are no limits of the amount of compensation that an Employment Tribunal can award for discrimination.
To speak to our experienced employment law solicitors contact us now on 01869 252244 or use the contact form on your right.