Policies and good practice
Anti-discrimination legislation applies to organisations in all sectors and irrespective of their size. Businesses must not discriminate against their employees, workers, self-employed contractors and agency workers. The business will be liable for the actions of those working for it and will have to pay any award of damages that the employment tribunal makes.
A prudent business will put in place checks and measures to ensure its workforce behaves appropriately.
An equal opportunities and diversity policy will have no effect if it remains an academic instrument. The business should distribute it to all staff and convene discussion groups and run training to explain the nuances of the legislation. As well as creating a fair workplace, such policies and training exercises can evidence that the business has taken all reasonable steps to eliminate discriminatory behaviour from the workplace and will promote the organisation’s defence in the event of a discrimination claim.
Where a discrimination arises
The legislation is engaged at an early stage of the work relationship, so that an organisation may be liable if it discriminates in the way in which it conducts a job recruitment process for instance.
The grounds on which discrimination will be deemed unlawful are called ‘protected characteristics’ and they are:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
Unlawful discrimination can take various forms, for instance an employer may be liable for:
- direct discrimination
- associative discrimination
- perceptive discrimination
- indirect discrimination
- disability discrimination
- a failure to make reasonable adjustments