Business owners have to be extremely careful not to discriminate on grounds of age, disability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation and many, many more.
Business owners have to be extremely careful not to discriminate on grounds of age, disability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation and many, many more. With a seemingly never-ending stream of legislation, failure to attend to discrimination issues can have dire consequences.
Imogen Haslam, an adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the professional body for people involved in management, warns businesses that do not have processes in place to prevent and deal with discrimination within their company risk both civil and criminal action and the potential adverse publicity that may bring.
“Unfortunately, there is no neat definition for discrimination,” says Haslam. “It is down to the person who feels they are being discriminated against – if they feel intimidated or disrupted by a colleague’s words or actions – it is not about intention.”
To prevent incidents of discrimination occurring, Haslam advocates the following:
- Instilling awareness of the issue into the culture of the business
- Making sure everyone is aware exactly what the company’s policy is
- Outline the potential consequences of not adhering to it. Emphasise its importance
- Nominate a person to be responsible for discrimination issues, someone to whom employees can go to with complaints
- Monitor the policy for effectiveness
- Record complaints in writing
- Support the nominated employee in their role so they are not isolated.
“The best way to deal with complaints is informally,” Haslam believes. “It pays to act quickly when a complaint is made and speak to the person making the complaint and the person who the complaint is against to see if the problem can be simply resolved. This can prevent the need for an employment tribunal and cash fine and loss of reputation.
See also: Changes in disability discrimination law