Discrimination in the workplace can be a minefield for employers. The employer is responsible for the actions of its workers. This means if one of your workers is discriminating against someone else, the victim of discrimination can pursue a claim for discrimination in the employment tribunal and name the employer as the ‘Respondent’. This can either be instead of or as well as the person or people who have actually discriminated against the employee.
Discrimination is now largely dealt with by the Equality Act 2010, which lists eight ‘protected characteristics’ :
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and Civil Partnership
- Race / belief
- Sexual orientation
Prohibited conduct (types of discrimination)
These are the basic headings for prohibited conduct and the law is expectedly more involved. There are many obligations on employers to prevent discrimination in the workplace.
If a claim for discrimination is successful, the employment tribunal has powers to order the following remedies :
- That a declaration is made
- Financial compensation of (a) injury to feelings, (b) loss of earnings and (c) ‘exemplary or aggravated damages’
- A recommendation
Injury to feelings is assessed on the seriousness of the discriminatory treatment and falls into three different ‘bands’ :
- For less serious cases, £600 - £6,000;
- For moderate cases, £6,000 - £18,000; and
- For serious matters £18,000 - £30,000
Financial losses to an employer can therefore be substantial, and there is of course the negative publicity that comes with a finding that an employee has been discriminated against.
There are ways of avoiding or minimising discrimination in the workplace. It is important to have the right policies and procedures in place to start with, such as an equality and diversity policy. Training can also be provided to staff on equality and diversity. Employees should be made to feel that they can report incidents of discrimination without repercussions. If someone reports an incident
of discrimination in the workplace, you should ensure that you deal with it appropriately.
If you need assistance with preparation of policies and procedures, or advice on a grievance raised in respect of discrimination, please contact us and we will be happy to help. We can provide you with the information you need via phonecall or email, or even drop by our office which is based in Sheffield.
If you are in the process of dealing with a discrimination claim that has been made against your business, or if you think one is likely to arise, please contact us as soon as possible so that we can help you to deal with this.