Employment Discrimination, or ‘less favourable treatment’ of an employee, on the grounds of a protected characteristic such as their sex, race, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or part-time or fixed-term working status is not just a workplace taboo – it’s unlawful. It can also have lasting negative impacts on both your employees and your business and can even lead to claims against you in an Employment Tribunal.
Employment Discrimination can exist in many forms including not only less favourable treatment, but harassment and victimisation of someone who has raised a complaint about discrimination. It doesn’t necessarily have to be directly associated with one of these ‘protected characteristics’ – it can also be a result of a rule, firmwide policy or a system of working which puts a particular person at a disadvantage, for example, insisting that your workers work overtime on Sundays, which would discriminate against Christians who consider it a day of worship.
Discrimination can arise in any number of circumstances, whether or not it is intended to do so. Sometimes employees who take a period of family related leave return to work and seek to return to their old job. Failure to allow them to do this, or a similar job if the employee has been off for more than six months, may result in a claim for discrimination, as may an unreasonable refusal to allow that employee to amend their working hours to assist with childcare responsibilities. Alternatively, you may have a disabled member of staff who requires certain adjustments to be made to their working environment or their terms of employment in order to address any obstacles preventing them from carrying out their duties. Whatever the scenario, Tollers are here for you to assist you in dealing with matters fairly and reasonably so as to avoid a successful discrimination claim.
Discrimination amongst the Workforce
As well as being aware of not acting in a discriminatory manner, you must also watch out for discrimination arising between members of the workforce. Just because discrimination isn’t being reported, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t taking place behind the scenes. We appreciate that you have limited control over what your employees may say or do, but having steps and procedures in place to prevent or to deal with discrimination in the workplace could help you to defend an allegation of discrimination and to minimise any reputational damage.
It’s a generally accepted view that men and women should receive equal pay for equal or comparable work. The achievement of equal pay has become more prevalent since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1970, with modern governments focusing more on equal pay, giving new powers to the Tribunals for equal pay audits to be carried out and ordering that mandatory pay gap reporting is carried out annually.
The laws relating to equal pay apply to all workers, including part-time, casual and temporary staff, and it extends to all areas of wages, salaries and occupational pensions, bonuses, overtime sick pay and holiday pay.
Equal pay laws necessitate careful consideration about what and how your staff are paid and the jobs that they perform. Even without an intention to discriminate against a particular gender, the costs of getting it wrong can be damaging.
You must be able to justify an inequality in pay by showing a ‘genuine material factor’, one which is unrelated to gender and is objectively justifiable. Your employees can ask you to provide information to show whether they are receiving equal pay and if not, your justification for this disparity. An equal pay claim can be brought in an employment tribunal at any time during employment, or within six months of termination of employment. If bought in the civil courts, ex-employees may have up to six years to bring a claim.
Talk to Tollers
Prevention is as important as reaction when it comes to addressing employment discrimination. We can help you provide a clear structure for the management and training of employees to create an understanding of expected standards of behaviour, and a clear indicator of what would be unacceptable discrimination in the workplace.
Tollers are here for you and can help to ensure that you carry out a constant review of staff and pay grades, and be able to objectively justify any pay increase given to a person of a different sex to someone carrying out equal work. Failure to do this can give rise to equal pay claims. Tollers’ experience and expertise can help you avoid them.
Get in touch with our specialist employment law solicitors for expert advice and guidance.
Tollers also offers to its clients its own HR Package ‘Tollers HR’ which has been designed to help you manage your employees in a cost effective and confident way. We can help you manage and maintain your employment contracts, disciplinary issues, redundancies, grievances and conduct or performance dismissals. To find out more about Tollers HR click here.