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Employment Law Update - Diversity

03rd January 2012
By KateRussell in Law
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From about 1970, a range of protections have been introduced making it unlawful to treat someone less favourably in the work environment for a reason related to a protected characteristic (gender, race, age etc.). More recently, considerable attention has been given to encourage a diverse workplace, building on the protected rights and encouraging full inclusion and participation of all eligible workplace candidates. Scrutiny has been comprehensive. For example, the Financial Reporting Council has been consulting on whether the UK Corporate Governance Code should be revised to require listed companies to publish their policy on gender diversity in the boardroom and report against it annually.

Although there was an overall decrease in employment tribunal claims from 2010 – 2011, some areas have increased, in particular Part-Time Workers Regulations, which almost trebled and age discrimination, up by a third. It is widely anticipated that the removal of the Default Retirement Age will result in a significant spike of claims. There is undoubtedly a sea-change in the way employees view the workplace and their place within it. I have been seeing a large number of cases where employees demand their perceived rights aggressively and often unreasonably. It is a worrying trend and many mangers simply are not emotionally or tactically equipped to deal with the issues.

How can you prepare your managers to manage in a way that encourages diversity? First of all, make sure that your people are fully trained on the discrimination legislation. Many employees seem to think that because they’re a single mother they have inalienable rights and damn the rest of you. That simply isn’t so, but it takes knowledge, skill and practice to steer through the facts to ensure that you achieve an appropriate and equitable outcome. Managers are often so mystified by the whole single parent concept that it doesn’t occur to them that employees can’t simply demand and be given. It has to be correctly worked through. Secondly, consider your workplace. How is it made up? Does it reflect your local population reasonably proportionately (from shop floor to Boardroom)? What recruitment, promotion and training practices are you using? How inclusive are these? Do you have a mechanism for consulting and taking feedback from all sectors of your workforce, so that they are able to contribute to the business and their own development within it? Sometimes just a few changes have a remarkably inclusive effect.

Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said recently "Equality and diversity aren't things that get in the way of business. My experience of employers is that they are decent, fair-minded and want their organisations to be a place where anybody can come, work and prosper." He’s absolutely right. If we fail to optimise all our resources our organisations are wasting resource and leaking money.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in the practical application of employment law as well as providing employment law training and HR services. For more information, visit our website at or call a member of the team on 0845 644 8955.

Russell HR Consulting offers HR support services to businesses nationwide, including Buckinghamshire (covering Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Milton Keynes, Bedford, Banbury, Northampton, Towcester and surrounding areas), Nottinghamshire (covering Chesterfield, Mansfield, Nottingham, Sheffield, Worksop and surrounding areas) and Hampshire (covering Aldershot, Basingstoke, Reading, Farnborough, Fareham, Portsmouth, Southampton and surrounding areas).

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