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Cases of workplace discrimination are continuing to grow in numbers every year. According to the Independent, research issued by Sky uncovered that prejudice was still a recurring issue in UK businesses. It was also revealed that staff were primarily being targeted based on their age, gender and race.
Unfortunately, cases of discrimination are all too common in the workplace. As abuse can be portrayed in a number of ways and towards all members of society, there’s never been a more sensitive time to be wary of ongoing bullying and harassment at work.
It’s the responsibility of employers to ensure that their staff are protected from this unfair treatment. Identifying discrimination and dealing with it accordingly is a challenging task due to the sensitivity around this issue, but it’s possible to do this as long as you understand what qualifies as discrimination, what causes it and how to prevent it from occurring within your company.
Although there are obviously many characteristics that can be exploited in any working environment, understanding what counts as discrimination and what doesn’t is vital for employers. To clarify what technically counts as discrimination, the Equality Act 2010 named nine protected characteristics.
The types of discrimination include sex discrimination, disability discrimination, gender reassignment discrimination, age discrimination, race discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, pregnancy and maternity discrimination, religion or belief discrimination, and marriage and partnership discrimination.
Discriminating against an employee on the basis of any of these nine characteristics is against the law. This list of categories is only likely to grow in the future, with things like discrimination against employees with tattoos and discrimination based on dress code becoming more of a concern to employees in recent times.
Discrimination can occur as early as the recruitment process, especially if candidates are being chosen – whether consciously or subconsciously – based on characteristics such as gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability. Even things like judging someone by their financial status or credit rating can be seen as discriminatory if it’s used to determine their suitability to an unrelated job role.
Even positive workplace discrimination can be problematic and get employers into legal difficulties. For example, offering unfair preferential treatment to individual employees by being more generous with work incentives, bonuses and pay rises could lead to discrimination claims from the remaining colleagues, as they are likely to receive inferior treatment in comparison.
There are many steps you can take to prevent discrimination in your workplace. Simple but effective changes include:
Discrimination is a very sensitive topic. If you need help with anything from putting policies in place and handling difficult conversations, to carrying out investigations and following fair procedures, our experts are here for you.
And if you’re a Citation client, remember, we’re available 24/7 with our advice line.
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