Since the days when innuendo and witty put-downs were commonplace in the workplace, we’ve come a long way. And, fortunately, society is a much more equitable and inclusive place where people are protected and included rather than ridiculed and excluded.
Nevertheless, despite significant progress, workplace discrimination occasionally rears its evil head. As a manager or employer, you must be aware of what constitutes discrimination, not only because your employees deserve equitable and equal treatment, but also because you may be breaking the law if you do not.
What is occupational discrimination?
Discrimination in the workplace is the discriminatory treatment of individuals based on preconceived notions. When an employee is regarded unfavorably because of their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, pregnancy, maternity, or disability, discrimination can occur.
If you treat an employee differently based on their differences from other employees, you may violate the law. Direct discrimination is when an employee is regarded less favorably than others. For instance, the applicant is qualified for the position, but you reject them because you believe they may shortly start a family.
Direct discrimination can also occur when an employee is paid less than other employees for no valid reason, when particular workers are selected for redundancy based on protected characteristics when a disabled worker is not provided with reasonable accommodations, when an employee is fired for alleging discrimination, or when a new parent’s request for flexible working is unfairly denied.
Indirect discrimination occurs when certain rules or regulations disadvantage certain employees. For instance, requiring all employees to work on Sundays could be interpreted as discrimination against Christians who observe that day as a day of worship.
What are the nine characteristics protected by the 2010 Equality Act?
The Equality Act of 2010 brought together several distinct pieces of legislation under one banner and strengthened discrimination laws. The Act specifies nine protected characteristics:
- Age Disability
- Gender transition
- Orientation based on sexual orientation
- Religion or belief
- Marriage and cohabitation
- Pregnancy and childbirth
If you discriminate against your employees on one of these grounds, they can file a complaint or even file a lawsuit against you.
Employers can take measures to ensure they do not engage in discrimination.
As an employer, you must be proactive in preventing discrimination if you wish to remain in compliance with the law.
Avoiding discrimination begins before hiring a candidate. Ensure that your advertisement does not discriminate by using specific terms, such as. Office girls may imply that only women are eligible to register. Use terms like “highly experienced” only when they are genuine job requirements; otherwise, you risk discriminating against someone who has not yet had the opportunity to gain experience. You must also ensure that all candidates are treated equally by asking them the same set of questions and avoiding queries that pertain to protected characteristics, such as asking someone when they intend to start a family.
Create a policy of equal opportunity. This should outline the protected characteristics, direct and indirect discrimination, and acceptable and unacceptable workplace conduct. It will serve as the foundation for a safe and respectful workplace for your employees and can significantly reduce the likelihood that you will inadvertently discriminate against staff by educating them on their rights and responsibilities. By implementing such a policy, you demonstrate that you are a considerate employer who believes in equal opportunity and will ensure that all employees are treated equitably.
Inform your employees about discrimination and your company’s stance on it. Include specifics in their employment contract and employee handbook, if you have one. Training on discrimination can also be incorporated into the induction procedure, so employees are aware of the dos and don’ts from the outset.
You should encourage your employees to respect one another’s differences as part of your company’s culture.
Resolve concerns quickly
If someone does file a discrimination complaint, you should act swiftly and discreetly. Ensure that a robust complaints procedure is in place so that employees feel heard and their differences are respected at work.
In addition to including general discrimination training as part of the induction process for new employees, train your managers and supervisors to recognize and respond to discrimination.
It’s wonderful to have an anti-discrimination policy in the workplace, but it’s not enough to simply pay lip service to it. You must ensure that it is effectively enforced and that your employees have faith in its validity.
Review your policy frequently to ensure its effectiveness and make any necessary adjustments.