With the right legal help, any employer can be within the law so claims of discrimination against staff or the business never need to arise.
Not doing so can be costly. The average compensation awarded following successful age discrimination cases in the workplace was £18,801 in 2013–14.
There is a great deal of legislation regarding discrimination, and it is important your business has the appropriate policies in place to resolve any such issues. It is also vital you know how to deal with these situations as and when they arise.
Here at First4lawyers, we will provide access to business solicitors who are specialists in discrimination law and can help whether you’re trying to pre-empt legal action, or defend against it. Simply get in contact.
What is discrimination?
Discrimination is the unfair treatment of someone due to a specific personal trait. As an employer, this could stem from not hiring someone, making an employee redundant, or paying them less than other workers. UK discrimination law defines nine protected characteristics:
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage or civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
All the above characteristics are protected by law. This means that you must not discriminate against someone simply because of one of these items. Unfair treatment for any other reason may not legally be classified as discrimination.
Are there any exceptions that UK law deems to be acceptable discrimination?
Yes. As an employer, you can discriminate against a potential or current employee if you have an objective justification for doing so. In other words, you must show that by discriminating, you are doing so to achieve a legitimate business aim.
For example, you can also discriminate against those under the age of 18 if one of the requirements of the job is to sell alcohol.
How should my business avoid discrimination during the recruitment process?
You must not imply or state in a job advert that you’ll discriminate against someone. This would include saying you will not – or are not able – to employ those with disabilities.
You should use phrases like ‘highly experienced’ or ‘recent graduate’ only when these features are truly necessary to fulfil the job you’re advertising. Otherwise, this could amount to discrimination against younger people with little experience, or older people who have not had the chance to obtain certain qualifications.
When advertising a job, certain actions may result in indirect discrimination. An example of this could involve only posting the advert in men’s magazines, which could amount to indirect sexual discrimination.
During the application and interview processes, you must avoid asking candidates about their protected characteristics, or the following:
- Their health.
- Their marital status.
- If they have children, or plan to have them.
- Date of birth.
- Criminal convictions.
- Trade union membership.
There are certain circumstances under which you can ask about health and disability:
- If you suspect the applicant cannot meet the reasonable requirements of the job with reasonable adjustments.
- You want to find out if someone needs help to take part in an interview.
- You’re using ‘positive action’ to recruit a disabled person.
What can I do to avoid discrimination in the work place?
The law decrees that you must not discriminate against your employees. With this in mind, you must not:
- Introduce policies that discriminate between workers e.g. offer a benefit for married workers, but not to those in civil partnerships.
- Make an employee redundant because they have a protected characteristic.
- Avoid making reasonable adjustments for disabled workers.
- Sack someone who makes an allegation of discrimination.
- Dismiss someone because they’re a member of a union.
What action can my employees take to resolve issues of discrimination in the workplace?
If an employee believes that you (as their employer) or someone in the workforce has discriminated against them for an issue relating to the nine protected characteristics, they can raise a grievance using the relevant procedure you have in place.
Your grievance process should follow the ACAS Code of Practice. As the employer, you are liable for all matters of discrimination in the workplace unless you can show that you were unable to prevent it.
My business needs help and advice regarding discrimination law – what should I do?
Whether you want to defend against an existing discrimination case, or you wish to protect your business against such issues in the future, you should get in touch with us at First4lawyers and draw upon the knowledge of our solicitors.
First4lawyers can assign expert business solicitors with all the experience you need to help you prevent discrimination in the workplace, or protect your business in court.