Dealing with discrimination in the workplace is as much about prevention as it is reaction. In this article I’ll be looking at the prevalence of discrimination in the workplace, and touching on some key steps employers should take to protect the interests of their employees, and their business, in relation to this issue.
A recent survey of 1,600 people revealed that workplace discrimination is still worryingly widespread, with almost 20% having experienced discrimination of some type during their career, whether it be a one off occurrence or an ongoing issue.
Age and gender were identified as the most commonly experienced types of discrimination at 27% and 23% respectively, with women experiencing the greater percentage of gender discrimination at 37% as opposed to 12% for men.
Race/nationality and physical appearance (15% each) were the second most prevalent types of discrimination, followed by social class (12%) and disability/illness (11%). Least pervasive was sexual orientation at 6%.
Most interestingly, 44% of the people surveyed who said they had been discriminated against did not take any action regarding the incident(s).
A closer look at age discrimination data reveals why this might be: 37% of people aged 65+ claim to have experienced age-related discrimination but 50% of young people aged 18-24 also claim to have experienced age-related discrimination.
With competition for jobs at an all time high, it can be difficult for those with less life and workplace experience to find employment. Equally, those who are perceived by employers to be at or near the end of their working lives often struggle to find alternative jobs after being made redundant. In both instances, employees may be reluctant to report an incident which could jeopardise their position.
With this in mind, employers should remind themselves that just because discrimination isn’t being reported, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. This reinforces the need for businesses to encourage and implement a company wide discrimination-free culture.
Developing a discrimination-free culture
No matter what industry or business size, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure staff are well- versed in discrimination policies and procedures. Here are five key steps every employer should be taking to minimise discrimination within their business:
● Have clear employment policies - as an absolute minimum, employers should have a disciplinary procedure, code of conduct and grievance procedure in place. Policies for equal opportunities and data protection, among others, should also be considered. More information can be found on the ACAS website.
● Conduct regular training - to ensure staff are kept up to date with employment policies and procedures, and understand what constitutes acceptable behaviour towards others in the workplace.
● Be thorough - when investigating complaints and grievances, and ensure that your actions reflect those laid out in your policy documents. Ensure procedures are followed rigidly, and carried out consistently in every situation.
● Keep records - and notes of all situations, including minuting all meetings and taking detailed notes during telephone calls. These notes will act as evidence, should problems escalate.
● Ensure access for all - be it having disabled access parking bays for disabled members of staff, or investing in ergonomic chairs or sit/stand desks for bad back sufferers, small changes such as these can go a long way to prevent the breakdown of confidence and trust between employee and employer that often leads to constructive dismissal claims.
By truly understanding what discrimination is, and the range of offences it encompasses, employers stand a much better chance of minimising discrimination claims within the workplace. It is the responsibility of the employer to comply with its duties, and ensure that equal opportunities are engrained within the business at every level. If in doubt, it is best to consult an experienced solicitor for advice.
Vercida works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with Vercida to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email [email protected] for more information.
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