Discrimination at Work Advice for Employers

09 July 2019

No employer wants their employees to feel uncomfortable or unhappy at work. Worse yet, no employee should feel harassed, bullied or victimised. One of the greatest contributing factors to negative feelings at work can be a feeling of being discriminated.

Discrimination can tarnish an employer’s reputation whilst making work-life for an employee unbearable. It can include serious issues such as sexual harassment and racist attacks, each of which have crippling repercussions. 

Tribunal claims against a company, increases in absences, and talented employees leaving in large numbers are just a handful of these.

Vigilance against this is essential for employers, as it can occur at almost any stage of an employee’s employment.

It is possible for allegations of unfair treatment to be brought against an employer even throughout the recruitment process. There are many potential pitfalls for employers, each with their own costs to a business.

For example, beyond gaining a bad reputation, they can take an employer to an employment tribunal. These tribunals can cause unlimited fines and no minimum service period. 

So let Peninsula help you avoid discriminaion in the workplace. 

What does discrimination mean?

Discrimination occurs when one employee is treated less favourably than another by an employer on the grounds of a protected characteristic. 

There are many distinct grounds in which an employee can feel discriminated against, including disability, nationality, or gender. They set these out in law through the protected characteristics. It is always discrimination if n employee is treated differently, directly or indirectly, because of a protected characteristic. 

These protected characteristics include:

Examples of such would include, in the case of age discrimination, a younger employee being offered a promotion rather than an elderly employee purely on the basis of being a younger employee.

This means discrimination can occur with any employee. Employers would be wise to implement training and raise awareness of what can constitute discrimination.

Employers are obliged to take steps to eliminate discrimination. This applies to both recruitment processes and life within the workplace.

Employment discrimination laws in the UK

Law protects certain individual characteristics in the Equality Act 2010, and therefore from unfair treatment by law. 

However, it benefits employers to view this legislation in a more positive light. For example, adhering to the legislation promotes greater equality in the workplace, showing that a business complies with laws and progressive.

The Acas guidelines on unfair treatment also provide useful advice for employers seeking opportunities for equal job opportunities and fairness for all employees. 

There are other They were then all combined or updated in the Equality Act 2010

Because of this, employers must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate employees or potential employees with disabilities. Such as providing ramps for wheelchairs

The effects of discrimination

If an employee or candidate for employment feels that they have been unfairly treated, they may have grounds to take you to an employment tribunal. This could result in a hefty fine as compensation for discrimination, paid to the employee by the employer.

There’s also the distinct possibility that accusations of discrimination in the workplace reflecting poorly an employer. Some may not wish to work for an employer if even an accusation is made against them. This includes potential employees and current employees.

Other detrimental effects to a company includes:

  • Significantly lower morale
  • Higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety
  • Harmful physical effects, including high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease
  • Negative working environment
  • Higher levels of absenteeism 
  • Higher employee turnover
  • Third-party investigations

Types of discrimination

It is against the law for an employer to treat an employee or potential employee differently due to protected characteristics. 

This includes anyone associated with those who have a protected characteristic or if they have complained about discrimination or supported someone else’s claim in the past.

Discrimination comes in many forms, and employees can feel victim to any number of them, The distinct forms of discrimination include:

Employers should note that they are responsible for preventing and addressing all discrimination in their business. This does not just include management but preventing discrimination at all levels of their company.

Generally speaking, when discussing these cases will often involve either direct or indirect discrimination.

What is direct discrimination?

Direct discrimination is when an employee feels that they are unfairly treated due to a protected characteristic. 

Direct discrimination can occur as early as the hiring process. An example of direct would be a black applicant is refused a role in preference to a white candidate due to their race.

It is worth noting that it still counts as direct discrimination if the one engaging in unfair treatment of a protected characteristic also has that protected characteristic. For example, a female employee denying the promotion of another female employee due to their gender.

What is indirect discrimination?

Indirect discrimination is when an employer imposes a particular requirement or practice on all employees that may unnecessarily disadvantage a certain group. 

An example of this would require all employees to be clean-shaven. This may disadvantage certain religious groups.

This includes any policies set in place, regardless of whether there was no ill will behind the policy. 

It is possible to prove that this is happening or has happened to an employee by the following conditions:

  • The policy, requirement or practice is being applied equally to everyone (or to everyone in a group that includes the employee)
  • The policy, requirement or practice disadvantages employees with a protected characteristic when compared to employees without it
  • The policy, requirement or practice is proven to personally put an employee at a disadvantage (or that it has the potential to do so)
  • The policy cannot be objectively justified. This applies even if it objectifies employees with a protected characteristic to a level of disadvantage

The last condition is important, as If the employer can show an appropriate justification for the policy, requirement or practise then the claim will not succeed. 

Instead, it is considered objective justification.

Need help and advice?

As an employer, not understanding the risks of unfair treatment can result in costly mistakes. Peninsula offers help and advice to prevent these issues.

Our 24-hour advice line provides help whenever you need it. For comprehensive, on-site assistance, Peninsula provides other extensive services. Call today 0800 028 2420

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