Discrimination policies must be real

As an employer, you are responsible for eliminating discrimination and harassment from your workplace. It is not enough simply to have the relevant written policies. Even if you believe that you operate a fair policy, are you certain that an examination of all your workplace procedures would bear this out?

Case study

Recently, a major car manufacturer found, to their cost, that claiming to have a 'zero tolerance' policy towards racism means nothing if the policy is not enforced. An ex-employee of the Company was awarded £150,000 after he was subjected to 'humiliating and intimidatory' racist bullying over a long period of time. The Tribunal judged that the company's discrimination policy was an 'empty gesture'.

Allowing this sort of racial harassment can lead to very large awards for damages. 

UK legislation

UK legislation protects people from discrimination on grounds of sex, race, disability, religion, belief, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, age, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership. 

Developing an Equal Opportunities Policy

If you do not have an existing policy then clear guidelines must be put in place. These should cover all aspects and areas of employment and must include:

  • advice on how to handle discrimination and harrassment
  • examples of the sort of practices that will not be tolerated
  • who an employee should contact if they suffer discrimination

The right to request flexible working is also available to an employee with 26 weeks continuous service, if they are caring or expecting to be caring for a person who is aged 18 or over, is in need of care and is either:

  • married to or the partner or civil partner of the employee; or
  • a relative of the employee; or
  • living at the same address as the employee

All staff must be made aware of the policy and this must be evidenced. Make sure your present procedures comply with the aims stated in the policy. Review recruitment, selection, promotion and training procedures regularly to make sure you continue to deliver on your policy in an objective way.

Management should also be seen to be implementing these policies. Any complaint should be dealt with seriously and promptly and be properly documented. Staff responsible for enforcing the policies should be given training.

If you would like assistance in drawing up an Equal Opportunities policy or advice on implementing one, please contact Richard Stephens or call 020 8367 3999.