Equality & diversity in the workplace

Equality and diversity is an important consideration in the workplace. This is evidenced by recent ACAS statistics which detail that, over the last year, it has dealt with over 50,000 calls regarding discrimination and diversity issues in the workplace.

Discrimination and harassment claims can be very costly for employers, with the maximum award being around £30,000.00. The actual award made to a claimant is valued entirely at the discretion of the Tribunal, who will take into consideration the actions of the employer when assessing the award value.

Highlighting what an important issue this is, ACAS has published three new guides, which attempt to help identify, address and prevent discrimination in the working environment.The guides outline best practice in the workplace:-

  • Equality and Discrimination: Understanding the Basics identifies the law on discrimination and provides examples to help employers understand their obligations.
  • Prevent Discrimination: Support Equality is a practical guide providing information on how to prevent discrimination in the workplace.
  • Discrimination: What to do if it happens gives advice on ways in which to investigate allegations of discrimination.

Although the guides will provide helpful information to employers, they will also result in employees having an increased awareness of their rights and entitlements to protection from discrimination. This could mean that the number of discrimination disputes and claims issued increase.

Employment Associate at KBL Christine Hart explains;   ‘What is clear from my experience is that it is important for employers to obtain advice early in order to keep the value of any claims to a minimum and ensure that all possible defences are available.

Where a third party has subjected an employee to discrimination or harassment, the employer could technically be deemed liable for these acts in certain circumstances. If the employer acts appropriately in response to any allegations, and has the necessary policy and procedures in place, it may be able to rely on an ‘all reasonable steps’ defence, to effectively excuse its implication in the third party’s actions’.

KBL are able to provide advice and assistance to any employers who find themselves dealing with the complex and tricky issue of equality and diversity. For more information contact our Employment team on 01204 52777.