Equality and Diversity – an essential part of your business

Providing your employees with a workplace that is fair and equal is a vital part of your obligations as an employer. Not only is it a legal requirement through the Equality Act 2010, but it also allows your employees to feel supported, safe and happy in their place of work.

As Acas states, under the Act it is unlawful to discriminate against people at work in nine areas termed in the legislation as protected characteristics. These nine areas are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

As I have recently earned my Level in Equality and Diversity, I am educating the businesses I work with about the importance of being aware of these protected characteristics and the issues surrounding equality and diversity, and applying this awareness in their actions as an employer.

Your obligations as a business

As a business, you need to be aware of both of the implications of legislation and also the impact of discrimination on your employees. By understanding these issues and tackling discrimination you will reduce the chance of grievances, disciplinary actions or employment tribunal claims, as well as the associated costs of the disruption.

It can also enhance your reputation as an employer and assist you in attracting, motivating and retaining loyal staff. Staff that feel happy and secure in their workplace are more likely to be productive and motivated, and stay in their jobs. This saves you money in recruiting and training costs, as well as giving you a wider pool of interested applicants to recruit from, should you require more staff.

Your diverse workforce will also reflect the growing dynamic of the country and provide a variation of viewpoints and experience. A diverse workforce will also help an organisation better understand and meet diverse customer expectations in terms of service or product.

How HR That Helps can help

With my advanced understanding of the issues I am now in a position to further assist the companies I work with to create equal and diverse workplaces. By providing an awareness of the issues, legislation and employment practices, I can help you with any queries regarding discrimination and equality. To find out more, contact me today




Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Everyone knows it is illegal to discriminate an employee, job seeker or trainee in terms of his or her age. However, do you know that The Equality Act 2010 also makes it unlawful to discriminate against people in terms of their ‘perceived’ age or the ages of those they associate with?

Take a look at our guide to age discrimination in the workplace for more information.

What is age discrimination?

When an employer denies certain employees promotions, jobs or comparable wages because of their age, it is age discrimination. It may also occur on an everyday level – belitting or harassing people because of their age, for example saying that they are ‘too old’ or even comments about retirement with the ‘pipe and slippers’ cliché.

Acas breaks down age discrimination into four main types

1. Direct discrimination
This direct discrimination could be down to the employee’s actual age, but it could also caused by their perceived age. For example, if an employee misses opportunities because it is felt they look younger than they actually are. It may also be a result of who the employee associates with, for instance if they regularly socialise with people younger or older than themselves.

2. Indirect discrimination

Indirectly discriminating against an employee, or a group of employees, can occur where there is a policy, practice, procedure or workplace rule that applies to everyone but particularly disadvantages people of a particular age.

Acas states that one example is “a requirement for job applicants to have worked in a particular industry for ten years may disadvantage younger people.”

3. Harassment

As with any harassment or bullying, unwanted attention and comments related to an individual’s age can create an intimidating, hostile and offensive environment.

4. Victimisation

Victimisation is where there is unfair treatment of an employee who has made or supported a complaint about age discrimination.

Are there exceptions?

In some limited circumstances, indirect discrimination may be justified if it is ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. This is where the law permits employers to discriminate because of a person’s age in a range of situations, if the employer can show that what it has done is justified. This may include setting a maximum age for physically demanding jobs, benefits based on length of service, minimum wage qualifications or insurance or related financial services.

How can you prevent age discrimination in your workplace?

You must have policies in place that clearly set out the obligations to all employees to treat people fairly regardless of age, and educate your staff on their responsibilities. This would include policies such as

  • recruitment
  • terms and conditions of employment
  • training and development
  • promotion
  • discipline and grievances
  • bullying and harassment
  • dismissal and redundancies.

If you require help introducing policies that prevent age discrimination in your business, contact us today.




Employees on Probationary Periods – What are their rights?

It’s often commonplace to have a probationary period for new employees as they join the business. As an employer, it is a useful way to ensure that the employee is right for the role and duties. For the employee, it can be a time to consider whether the role is right for them. However, it does not mean that the employees on probation are without any employment rights.


What are typical probation periods and how should they be used?

This trial period of employment is commonly from three to six months, although they can be as little as one week in short-term contracts. There can also be scope to extend these periods, for example if more training is needed.

Performance reviews at monthly periods throughout this time should be given as they are key to the opportunity for feedback. It gives both the employee and employer an opportunity to discuss any concerns and address them before the employee completes their probation. It really cannot be fair to suddenly decide that an employee is not suitable right at the end of the probation period, having had no discussions with them.

What rights do employees on probation have?

Probationary periods do not have special statutory status. In law, an employee’s length of service determines their statutory rights, not their probationary status. Employees who are on probation enjoy the same statutory employment rights as other staff, such as national minimum wage, statutory sick pay and rights under the working time rules.

Some family-related leave and rights also apply in the same way. Employees on probation are entitled to take time off for antenatal and adoption appointments. A pregnant employee on probation is entitled to maternity leave and may qualify for statutory maternity pay. She cannot be required to wait for her probationary period to end before starting her maternity leave.

Are probationers protected against unlawful discrimination?

Their rights are the same as other employees; therefore they are protected against unlawful discrimination, detrimental treatment for asserting a statutory right and automatically unfair dismissal.

This includes disability discrimination, so any employer with an employee on probation with a disability needs to make reasonable adjustments to allow them to work efficiently and comfortably.

What if you need to dismiss an employee during their probation?

Employees do not need a minimum period of service to claim that their dismissal was for an automatically unfair reason (such as for asserting a statutory right) or that it was based on unlawful discrimination. You need to ensure that, if you are dealing with a disciplinary or performance issue during a probationary period, particularly one that could result in dismissal, you demonstrate that you had genuine reasons and evidence for your actions. Therefore, following a process that includes an investigation and input from the employee is best practice before such cases arise.

What if an employee does not pass probation?

If an employee does not pass, you may have to terminate their contract. Here statutory notice applies as a minimum, but if your employment contract states a longer period you need to comply.

If you need to find out more probationary periods, the rights of employees on probation, or dismissals, contact us today


Discrimination in your business – How to avoid it

There are many types of discrimination you need to be aware of, and know to prevent, in your company. Whether it is race, gender, age or religion, having the appropriate policies in places will enable you to encourage equality and diversity in the workplace. It will also help you to avoid being accused of discrimination, and any potentially costly outcomes.

How do you prevent discrimination?

Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, recommends three steps to encourage equality and avoid discrimination in your business.

Step One – Be aware of the key areas of work, such as recruitment, where discrimination is more common.

For example, when advertising vacancies, do you state your commitment to equal opportunities and steer clear of references that could be potentially discriminatory, such as ‘mature person’ or the number of years experience an applicant needs to have? You may also want to consider where you place your vacancy – is it reaching a large enough audience through your current methods?

Step Two – Put in place policies to encourage equality and diversity and try to stop discrimination. Encourage your employees to get involved in this, as they have a key part to play in supporting and adhering to the policy.

These HR policies could include:

  • recruitment,
  • pay,
  • terms and conditions,
  • promotions,
  • training,
  • religious practices
  • dress codes.

Setting out the measures you take, as an employer, to ensure that every employee (or potential employee) is treated equally demonstrates your commitment to your staff. Make sure these policies are read and understood by staff so they also understand their role.

Discrimination can occur outside of your control as an employer, between staff members, but having your policies in place shows your commitment to equality and diversity. It also helps employees come to you, and their line managers, if they do feel there are issues within the workplace.

Step Three – Measure your policies and the impact that your actions are having, and implement changes when necessary.

Monitoring the diversity in your workplace, and whether your staff feel they are treated equally, will allow you to know if your policy is working and where changes have to be made.

Do you have any questions about discrimination in your business, and how it can be avoided? Talk to HR That Helps today to find out more about diversity and equality in the workplace.



Personal Relationships at Work – Have you got a policy in place?

Do you have a HR policy on personal relationships in your business? Whether it is a romantic or family relationship, it’s worth having steps in place that protect you, and the people involved, from potential risks that could harm them personally, and your company.

The commercial risk of favouritism and falsifying documents is a real one. You need to alert your managers to the risks, and make them aware of how employees may perceive (fairly or not) promotions, pay rises and job roles as a result of these relationships.

As with any relationship, there are two sides to this story that you need to consider – how to handle existing relationships within your business, and how best to protect your business should any new ones emerge.

Is it my problem?

If any relationship, romantic or otherwise, between two employees has or is likely to have an impact on working relationships, it is your business. Just thinking about these potential situations could give you a serious headache, even without a mention of a direct conflict of interest…

  • What if a manager starts seeing someone in his or her direct reporting line?
  • What are the potential implications for a father and son working together?
  • What if a new client is related to someone in your business?
  • How do you handle the fall out of failed relationship where the individuals are in the same department?

You can see already the potential for a breach of confidentiality, accusations of favouritism, sexual harassment claims, and much more.

As everyone knows, the workplace is a common place to meet potential partners. Statistics, and they vary; suggest that 40 – 56% of business professionals have had office romances. This could increase further in the future with longer working hours. Of those who started a relationship at work, nearly one third said their office romances lead to marriage. So you need to act now.

What do you need to do?

It’s worth creating a Personal Relationships at Work Policy, that details what is defined as a personal relationship, how it should be disclosed and who to, and the risks. These potential risks are then managed by setting rules of conduct in the workplace; and actions and remedies should a conflict, perceived or actual, occur.

These remedies could include moving individuals to different departments or buildings and changing aspects of management, decision-making and authority if there is a risk of the relationship interfering with the professional conduct and integrity of the business.

You should also consider running anti-sexual harassment training on a regular basis.

Do you have any policies in place with regards to personal relationships at work? Are they working for you? Let me know!

Anti-Tattoo Discrimination – Will It Affect Your Business?

With growing numbers of employees with tattoos, your business needs to define its policy. Research cited by the British Association of Dermatologists in 2012 states that one in five Britons now has a tattoo. As tattoos become more fashionable, and more visible, companies have had to deal with rising numbers of employees and applicants taking issue with rules about body art in the workplace.

Although this is not a legal issue in this country (however there are several e-petitions that wish to make it so), making a firm position on the topic can save hassle and potential action in the future.

What are the rules about tattoos?

Policies that restrict tattoos are commonplace in the UK. The law states that it is legal for managers to refuse to hire someone on the basis of their tattoos. Secondary legislation of the 2010 Equality Act specifically excluded tattoos and piercings from the definition of a severe disfigurement, on which basis an employer cannot discriminate, with the only exception being if the tattoo were connected to their religion or beliefs (which the employee would have to prove).

If you employ someone in a customer-facing role, or believe that their tattoos could cause offence, you are entitled to refuse them a job on that basis.

If a current employee decides to have a tattoo, that again may be perceived to be offensive or detract from their work, there could be grounds for fair dismissal. However, for this to take place your company needs to have a clear policy on tattoos and other body modifications.

What does my policy need to contain?

It is important to state your rules on tattoos, and ensure a fair policy for staff. You may need to protect your brand image and reputation; therefore visible tattoos (on the face or hands, for example) would not be appropriate. The subject matter and design of tattoos can also be an issue – tattoos may be considered offensive to your customers, for religious or racial reasons.

What are the implications?

With growing numbers of young people with tattoos, there may be a time where a blanket ban may not be so practical. You may find that, particularly if you need specialist skills, a no-tattoo policy may exclude talented people from your workforce. Smaller, less offensive designs may be more acceptable and you need to consider this within your policy.

To find out more about how a HR Policy for tattoos and body art will benefit your company, contact me today

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