Why does a business need to know about discrimination laws?
The Equality Act 2010 has the purpose of ensuring that individuals with a protected characteristic are not subjected to detrimental or unfavourable treatment in the course of their employment or during their engagement with services provided by businesses and organisations.
There are nine characteristics protected under the act, as follows:
- Sexual orientation
- Gender reassignment
- Religion or belief
- Marriage / civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
The law covers all aspects of service provision and employment, including: how you operate your recruitment process, internal and external promotions, pay and benefits, and grounds for termination of employment.
What are the legal consequences of discrimination? What happens if a business doesn’t comply?
If a business or organisation is accused of discrimination or a claim is brought and found to be successful by a court or tribunal, there are a number of penalties (both monetary and non-monetary) which the business could be subjected to. These include significant compensatory financial awards, injunctions compelling action to be taken by the business to rectify the matter and prevent such occurring in the future and declarations of discrimination.
The mere issue of a claim in the tribunal or County Court will inevitably prove expensive for a business to attempt to defend through litigation and create negative external publicity, in turn causing decreased staff productivity and/or morale.
As a business, legal expense insurance policies may not cover the defence of discrimination claims and / or the payment of any compensatory awards and therefore it is important that action is taken quickly, to obtain specialist advice and assistance in addressing any complaints or claims received at the earliest opportunity in order to avoid the negative effects and costs of proceedings ensuing to trial.
How can a business avoid complaints of discrimination or legal action?
There are a number of ways in which a business can take action to limit the risk that their practises or policies could be discriminatory. These include:
- Ensuring that the business has an equality and diversity policy, which will promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace and the course of the business’ activity.
- Delivering equality and diversity training and ensuring that regular refresher training is provided to all employees.
- Establishing and communicating clear policies on how concerns and complaints can be raised by employees and service users, and how they are to be dealt with.
- Ensuring that employment contracts and any other terms of service within the organisation comply with the law.
Early intervention and assistance in taking such action, by a specialist solicitor is crucial. Stephensons, is one of the few firms in the country that has a dedicated discrimination law team handling defence of civil discrimination claims.
Discrimination claims can cause not only significant financial damage to an organisation, they can also damage a business’ brand and reputation with cases being reported in the media. For these reasons, many claims should be addressed and potentially brought to conclusion before they go to court.
At every stage we can provide guidance and support on what is the best course of action to take whether preventative or in response to a complaint or claim and ultimately any potential defence for your organisation under a range of fixed fee and hourly charge fee arrangements.
For a no obligation discussion with our specialist discrimination defence solicitors. Call us now on 0161 696 6170.