Katharine-KellyKatharine Kelly discusses the importance for employers of being alert to discrimination issues in the workplace.

Discrimination in the workplace happens when an employer or someone under the employer’s control (e.g. another employee) treats an employee or a number of employees less favourably than others. Discrimination can involve sex, sexual orientation, age, racial origin, religious affiliation, disability or marital status. If you treat an employee, job applicant or other person associated with your business, less favourably for an unlawful reason you will be liable to pay compensation.

Sometimes discrimination is obvious because one employee is treated less favourably than another due to their gender or a disability, for example. This is direct discrimination. Actions can also be considered discriminatory when they are much less obvious, for example unfairly limiting the chances of one sex or age group. This is indirect discrimination. It is in this regard that employers frequently fall foul of the law and unwittingly find themselves the subject of a claim in the Employment Tribunal.

It is imperative that you have policies in place to ensure that you remain within the law on discrimination issues; to ensure that it is clear to your employees that discrimination will not be tolerated within your business and if a claim is made that a procedure is in place to ensure that you act quickly and fairly under your grievance procedure.

Damages in discrimination claims are uncapped and you should therefore take steps to ensure that the actions of your business are not and can not be considered to be discriminatory. We have encountered small businesses that have been forced to cease trading when faced with the cost of significant tribunal awards resulting from a finding of discrimination. We can assist you in preventing issues of discrimination from arising in the first place and, if they cannot be avoided, minimising the damage caused to the business. If you need assistance or you would like more information please do not hesitate to contact us now for a free assessment and initial advice.

Read more about discrimination issues here.