Equality forms the foundation of inclusion and it's important for you as an employer to keep up to date on the latest legal developments. That's why we've teamed up with Beachcroft LLP to provide you with top legal advice to make sure you've dotted all your 'i's' and crossed all your 't's'.
Equality in the workplace is about more than simply giving equal treatment to all of your employees and complying with the Equality Act.
Inclusive employers work to remove the barriers, which affect recruitment and progression. These barriers can include age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief, social background, physical or mental disabilities, marital or parental status, gender identity and transgender issues.
All policies and practices within the organisation should create equal opportunities for personal and professional growth, from establishing fair and transparent pay structures offering equal access to benefits such as paid holiday and other entitlements, to ensuring that promotion and progression is fair.
At the very minimum, employers are required to eliminate discrimination from the whole employment cycle, from the application stage and throughout an employee's career.
It has long been a legal requirement for employers to promote equality in the workplace. In October 2010 the Equality Act came into force, bringing together previous legislation and strengthening equality laws with the addition of new policies.
The act brought in the concept of protected characteristics, which include the existing strands - race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation and religion or belief - and in addition cover marital status, maternity and paternity, and gender identity.
The Equality Act prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination because of any of these characteristics.
Failure to comply with equality laws can have serious consequences for employers. Claims of discrimination at tribunals are increasing year-on-year and not only lead to costly legal bills but also huge reputational damage, and the media has an appetite for stories of employers getting it wrong.
Direct discrimination happens when an employer treats an employee less favourably than someone else because of a protected characteristic. For example, it would be direct discrimination if a driving job was only open to male applicants.
Indirect discrimination is when a working condition or rule disadvantages one group of people more than another. For example, saying that applicants for a job must be clean-shaven puts members of some religious groups at a disadvantage.
Indirect discrimination is unlawful whether or not it is done on purpose. For example, a minimum height requirement could indirectly be discriminating against women unless you can objectively justify the requirement.
You may fall foul of equality laws if you target your training and promotion practices at younger members of your team, assuming that older workers are not as interested in career progression as their younger counterparts.
You may also find yourself facing a tribunal claim should you fail to provide adequate facilities for disabled people in your workplace, or if you fall short of tackling bullying and harassment against a transgender employee.
Perhaps you have used discriminatory tactics in your screening of potential staff members, deliberately choosing male candidates over females regardless of their ability to do their job. All of these examples could lead to a tribunal claim.
Aside from avoiding legal action, financial penalties and damage to your reputation, promoting equality in the workplace can have a number of benefits to you as an employer.
If everyone in your workplace feels they are valued and being treated fairly, your employees are likely to be more engaged, be happier at work and therefore more productive.
And if your organisation is known as a place where people are treated equally and fairness is extended to all, you may find your status as an employer is boosted, allowing you to attract even more talented individuals to join your team.
With the Equality Act 2010 covering so many different areas, it can be difficult to know where you stand, even if you have every intention of complying with the law.
At Inclusive Employers, we can help you navigate the often complex world of equality legislation and create a workplace that's diverse, inclusive and puts everyone on an equal footing.
As a member, you'll benefit from expert advice and guidance, assistance in setting up the right policies and procedures and access to our helpline for all your queries about equality, diversity and inclusion.
You can also take advantage of our programme of events, through which you can meet and learn from other experts and other employers.
For more information, call us now on 020 7803 0689 or email us at email@example.com.