Discrimination advice for Employers

Recruitment and promotion decisions

No written job descriptions or not following consistent recruitment procedures can make it difficult to defend a subsequent discrimination claim. Ensure that reasons for any interview and job selections are noted.

Working hours and time off

Employees often request changes to their working hours or duties to meet childcare responsibilities. Since it is mainly women who make these requests, a refusal could amount to indirect sex discrimination unless it can be justified.

Age criteria

Particular care must be taken with vesting conditions for share schemes and redundancy schemes to avoid age discrimination.

Stress and disability

Employees with long-term stress-related illnesses may be protected by disability discrimination legislation, so care needs to be taken when dealing with dismissal for long term absence or capability.

Dress and appearance

If dress codes are incompatible with particular cultural or religious sensitivities, indirect racial or religious discrimination may occur unless the dress code can be justified.

Practical steps to reduce risk

To help avoid the risk of a discrimination claim, an employer should:

  • Provide staff with employment handbooks, including policies on equal opportunities and harassment, setting out what is and what is not acceptable behaviour.
  • Have a grievance procedure so that concerns and complaints can be raised and dealt with effectively. Ensure discriminatory behaviour by staff is not tolerated and is dealt with through proper disciplinary measures.
  • Review employment contracts, policies and employee share schemes to ensure they comply with the law.
  • Try to accommodate requests for family-friendly hours by employees with childcare or other family commitments, unless refusal can be justified.
  • Make reasonable adjustments where this will ease difficulties suffered by a disabled employee in the workplace.
  • Accommodate workers’ different cultures and religious beliefs, if possible. For example, requests for time off to pray should be allowed unless a refusal is justified.
  • If possible, provide training on equal opportunities and harassment. This may help managers to avoid inappropriate questions at interviews, or to recognise and deal with harassment at an early stage.

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