How to Respond to Discrimination at Work

Author:
Aneil Balgobin
Partner, Head of Employment Law
Date:
21/02/2019

If an employee, worker or an agent is subjected to discrimination, harassment or victimisation in the workplace, it’s appropriate that the affected individual doesn’t suffer in silence and takes prompt action to address it.

An employee can seek to resolve the dispute within the workplace through, for example, an informal discussion with their line manager/HR, and/or through a formal grievance process. Alternatively, they could pursue matters externally through ACAS and an Employment Tribunal claim.

For free initial legal advice get in touch with our Employment Law Solicitors.

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The General Rule

The general rule is that for an employee to pursue a claim regarding discrimination, harassment and/or victimisation in the Employment Tribunal, it’s first necessary for them to submit an ACAS early conciliation form with the body within three months (three months less one day) of the relevant act of discrimination, harassment and/or victimisation.

In certain limited circumstances, it can sometimes be possible to pursue proceedings in relation to acts of discrimination, harassment and victimisation that have occurred more than three months after the act being complained about. This includes cases where the act of discrimination, harassment and victimisation is part of a series of closely connected acts of discrimination and the last linked act occurred within three months of an ACAS early conciliation form being filed.

If a claimant’s Employment Tribunal claim is successful, a Tribunal can award a claimant compensation associated with both their financial losses (which are uncapped) arising from the discrimination and for injury to feelings. In addition, an Employment Tribunal can also issue recommendations to help the employer address relevant discriminatory acts/conduct, to help ensure that such conduct doesn’t reoccur in the future.

As with many employment-related problems and concerns, in terms of tackling discrimination in the workplace, for both employees and employers, it’s better that proactive appropriate steps are taken, particularly by employers, to seek to prevent acts of discrimination, harassment and victimisation occurring in the first place.

If an employer or a member of staff has any concerns or questions about steps to prevent discrimination, harassment and victimisation at work, it’s recommended that they consider promptly obtaining legal advice from an Employment Solicitor.

For free initial legal advice get in touch with our Employment Law Solicitors.

Call us on 08002605010 or request a callback and we will help you.

Discrimination at Work

Discrimination at work can be highly distressing for employees and it can cause significant damage to their health, and for employers, discrimination can potentially result in costly legal proceedings, a loss of business, industrial disquiet and serious reputational damage.

Workplace Discrimination and the Law

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the grounds of nine Protected Characteristics. These are:

      • Age
      • Disability
      • Gender reassignment
      • Marriage and civil partnership status
      • Pregnancy and maternity
      • Race
      • Religion or belief
      • Sex
      • Sexual orientation

Discrimination can of course take various different forms, including being direct or indirect, and it can arise at different stages of the working relationship. For example, discrimination at work can occur in a pre-employment recruitment process, such as in job advertisements, applications and interviews, during an employment relationship, and potentially after an employment relationship, for instance, in relation to the provision of a reference.

Various reports highlight the continued high levels of discrimination, particularly against women in the workplace, including in relation to unequal pay, sexual harassment, maternity and pregnancy matters, and career development.

How Can Employers prevent Workplace Discrimination?

There are various steps that employers can take to seek to prevent discrimination arising in the workplace. These include:

        • Having an appropriate, fair and open recruitment process in place
        • Undertaking relevant pre-employment checks on an employee
        • Having a relevant accessible equal opportunities policy in place
        • Providing training to managers/supervisors on how to respond to risks and actual acts of discrimination
        • Providing regular training to all staff on equal opportunities, equality issues, and non-discrimination in the workplace
        • Developing a culture of non-discrimination at work

When an act of discrimination, harassment and/or victimisation arises, an employer should promptly take appropriate steps to address the issue in order to resolve the problem efficiently, and to try to prevent further unlawful acts occurring.

If an employee has committed an act of discrimination, an employer may consider providing the offending employee with equal opportunities/non-discrimination training. They may also wish to pursue disciplinary proceedings and impose a relevant disciplinary sanction against them.

Seeking to prevent and address unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation at work when it arises is both a legal and moral issue, and something that can benefit employees, employers and wider society.

For free initial legal advice call our Employment Solicitors

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