Navigating the area of equality and discrimination within the workplace is tricky at the best of times – this area affords much protection for those undertaking work for you and indeed those that have never done a day’s work.

As the law stands, a claim for general unfair dismissal can only be made following two years’ service, but in some cases ‘day one’ rights do exist, including protection in the area of discrimination.

The removal of tribunal fees coupled with legal firms advertising for business on a no win no fee basis saw the number of disability claims brought before employment tribunals rise by 37% in 2018.  Awards for successful discrimination claims have no limit and the size of the business or its ability to pay won’t provide an ‘out’.

Recently, we’ve seen example after example of the utterings of business owners, managers and employees leading to successful claims with big rewards, including:

  • The case of the employee with diabetes who was humiliated at work when she was taken around the office at the beginning of her employment and introduced to first aiders as ‘a diabetic’. She was also told not to tell a colleague about an incident of low-blood sugar as she would get ‘sacked on the spot.
  • The well-publicised case of the cleaner who attended an equality and diversity training course where the trainer wrote the ‘N word’ on a flip chart, which was then repeated by other attendees.
  • An employee, who worked for Northumberland County Council who had a physical impairment to her feet, whose manager asked ‘how long will this disabled thing go on?’

These successful claims aren’t restricted to disability or race.  An employee who worked at logistic firm, Pall-Ex, was described by a colleague as a ‘baby farmer’ when she returned to work after her maternity leave whilst a lesbian employee was told by her manager to keep her sexuality hidden as the owner of the business was ‘old school’.

It is clearly impossible to micro-manage your employees to such an extent where you can ensure that what they say (and do) doesn’t land you in trouble but, there are things that you can do to help protect your business:

  • You should look at your written policies in this area – are they up to date?
  • You should look at how you train your staff and in particular whether your managers are properly trained in this area?
  • You should ensure that any hint of a problem in this area is dealt with swiftly using disciplinary procedures where applicable.
  • You should complete our FREE, no obligation HR Health Check which will provide you with an audit of all your current HR systems and documents and gives valuable feedback on any areas that may require improvement.

If you would like more information please don’t hesitate to contact our HR and Employment Law Expert, David Boland, on the details below:

David Boland
Managing Director
Direct Dial: 01942 292520
Mobile: 07786 376714