The whole episode with Sky Sports is a stark reminder that sexism and sexual harassment are still serious issues in the workplace. This has been reinforced with the implementation of the Equality Act 2010 in October last year. This Act brought together several pieces of discrimination legislation, including the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, but also introduced new, never before seen protection against less favourable treatment.
The only option for businesses to deal with it is to adopt a zero tolerance attitude and discipline employees accordingly. Legal Red Tape has made it harder for employees to get away with things that 30 years ago appeared acceptable and it seems that ‘freedom of speech’ is now a thing of the past. For a workforce to function, whether it be Sky Sports or your local chip shop, it is vital employees have respect for one another. Sexist jokes amongst employees that are seen as light hearted may be taken out of context and become offensive to other members of staff. An important point to remember here is that the law states that it does not matter if a comment was meant to be taken in a jokey way; it could still be seen as discrimination if it causes offence to the ‘victim’. Claims of discrimination are not restricted to the ‘victim’ either – employees will be able to complain about offensive behaviour even if it was not directed at them specifically.
Once a controversial joke becomes public knowledge in a workplace, working relations can quickly become strained as employees will have differing opinions on the matter. Differing views on such topics as race and sexuality, or in relation to any other of the protected characteristics, can cause a real stir in the office and affect productivity greatly. A topic as controversial as sexism is always going to cause uproar both internally in a company, and with regards to their external reputation were it to become public knowledge. With this in mind, dismissal may be the only option in order to keep harmony in the workplace and protect your businesses reputation.
Want more advice on how to deal with discrimination in the workplace? Call you Advice Service today on 0844 892 2772.