More needs to be done to prevent discrimination at work

Descrimination gender equality

Posted on 12 Aug 2019

According to a recent report by the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, businesses are not afraid to discriminate against employees. Evidence clearly shows that employers consistently breach the Equality Act 2010 without fear of challenge.

The report highlighted widespread problems with enforcement in relation to maternity discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. It recommended that the application of the existing law should be strengthened in other areas too, namely transgender equality, disability, workplace dress codes and treatment of older workers.

The burden of proof must shift away from the individual

The Committee’s report concluded that individuals must retain the ability to challenge alleged acts of discrimination in the courts, but a critical mass of cases is needed to create an environment where compliance with the Equality Act is the norm.

The report made a number of recommendations: including the need for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to raise greater awareness of the enforcement action it already takes, thereby providing a more effective deterrent. The logic behind this is that if employers see that the Equality Act has teeth, they will be more likely to comply with it.

There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain from a diverse workforce

The simple fact is that it’s to every organisation’s advantage to make sure its HR policies and practices provide all employees with equal opportunity at every stage of the employment relationship regardless of any protected characteristic. CIPD research clearly shows that people want to work for employers with good people management practices.

They are not only concerned abut how they are treated, but how their peers are treated too.  Entire teams will soon become demoralised, fearful and distracted from the job-in-hand if they see discrimination happening. Senior managers will quickly lose credibility if they do nothing about it, and employees may soon begin to vote with their feet to avoid the risk of finding themselves in the same position and to move to a company with values more closely aligned to their own.

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 provides equality of opportunity for all regardless of any ‘protected characteristic’, i.e.

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

The Acas guide ‘Equality and discrimination: understand the basics’ explains what employers need to know to comply with the law.

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