The Complexity of Discrimination – Do Managers Stand Any Chance of Getting it Right?

the complexity of discriminationWelcome to this HR Blast from Jaluch. Discrimination in the modern world is a complex business and it’s no wonder that businesses get tripped up by it on a frequent basis.

Some of the considerations relating to this topic

  1. Tribunal Fees have been removed. Given that there was an 80% decline in tribunal applications when fees were introduced, organisations should expect a dramatic return to the levels of litigation we experienced in the past. Be on your guard.
  2. Widening of scope. We still find managers unaware that the 2010 equality act widened the scope to include associative discrimination and perceptive discrimination. This means that it is no longer just about direct or indirect discrimination, meaning that all managers need greater awareness of where the trip hazards are.
  3. Political unrest. In our experience this tends to lead directly to internal workplace conflict and low morale. People don’t like change and change is unpredictable and by and large out of everyone’s control just at this moment in time. This will increase the likelihood of staff raising complaints, picking fights with each other or generally feeling out of sorts. All of which will cost money to resolve.
  4. Restructuring. Since May we have seen a huge rise in the number of organisations looking to implement restructuring which is resulting in redundancies. This will lead to many feeling personal financial uncertainty that again, might encourage staff to raise issues.

Discrimination: Some of the challenges

When legislation first came out in the mid 1970’s it was pretty straightforward, what you could or could not do in the workplace in respect of treatment of others. At that time, we didn’t even recognise the concept of harassment or even workplace stress. They were terms that simply weren’t spoken of or understood.

But now it’s much more complicated which means that managers need to have a good handle on it all, to avoid costly and time-consuming complaints and claims. Here’s a few ideas on just a few of the topics to get you thinking…

LGBT Discrimination

  1. Many of you will be working in a global marketplace. 37% of UN States (72 countries in total) prohibit discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation. But that leaves 63% of countries who don’t!

You can protect your sales and other staff when they are in the UK but what do you need to put in place to protect those who travel to those countries that have very different views on sexual orientation?

Also, how do you ensure you meet your employment law obligations here whilst also meeting your health and safety obligations to provide a safe place of work?

  1. Despite having legislation to protect staff who are not heterosexual but who have thus far not spoken about their sexual orientation at work: 31% fear losing connections with co-workers if they do speak out and 23% fear they might not be offered development or enhancement if they do.

Do your senior team believe that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is a thing of the past? If so, these stats indicate that it is definitely a very real issue that organisations need to be more aware of. So why do your senior team believe that all is well? Group Think?

Also, who is actually creating this belief that it’s not okay to speak out and who is perpetuating the belief that it’s not okay to be open about your sexuality?

Specifically, who is potentially exposing you to a discrimination claim and what in your culture needs addressing?

Gender Discrimination

  1. ‘Only 52% of organisations believe their board members are engaged in D&I initiatives and just 39% agree their middle managers are engaged. But billions continue to be spent on D&I training and projects and numerous research papers have demonstrated that real diversity in the top team results in hugely increased profitability.

Is all money spent on D&I wasted if even just 10% of an organisation’s’ top team are not engaged with the issue? Who in your senior team is not engaged and to what degree are they damaging any attempts you make to increase diversity and inclusion?

  1. In the 2006 US Open Tennis Grand Slam tournament, a new instant replay system offered players the opportunity to challenge a maximum number of line calls of the referees. The challenges of players – regardless of gender – are upheld about 33.3% of the time. However the men challenged 73 calls while the women challenged only 28 calls. In the 2013 Open these results were reconfirmed.

This is just one of a number of pieces of research into whether women ask for what they want or need. Usually the answer is that they don’t tend to.

Are your managers aware that women tend not to ask or challenge? Is this something women learnt to do when they were children or is it something they have learnt since entering into the workplace?

What impact on job opportunities, promotions, pay increases, training courses etc if the women in your business shy away from asking? And what impact on your pay gap given that pay gap reporting is about to become a legal requirement for many organisations.

Equally what impact on staff satisfaction and staff retention if women feel undervalued because they see they receive less than men, despite that being the result of them not asking?

If you don’t play the blame game here, what can organisations do to overcome this issue?

Accent Discrimination

  1. 80% of employers admit to making decisions in recruitment based on regional accents of those they are interviewing. 63% of candidates admit to hiding their accent in a job interview.

If you take a snapshot of your organisation will you find pockets in it of people who all look and sounds the same? If so, what does this say about your recruitment and your culture and more to the point what talent have you been missing out on just because you stick with what feels familiar and safe?

Equally what do you clients, customers, members, patients etc think about everyone looking like a ‘mini me’ of the CEO? Will they be making judgements about your culture and thinking about how you might perceive them?

Appearance Discrimination

  1. It has been estimated that the earnings of an attractive man will be around $250,000 more than someone who is not so attractive across his career. 12-14% of workers claim to have faced some appearance based discrimination.

Are your managers aware that in France there is legislation to prevent appearance based discrimination? If that was introduced in the UK would any of your recruiting managers come under the spotlight for their recruitment decisions?

Is your organisation seeking to recruit substance over appearance or is appearance the deciding factor in some decisions?

Do your managers know how easily swayed we can all be by irrelevant factors such as someone’s appearance, height, weight, where they attended university, what type of degree they did, where they were born, what accent they have, how we perceive their ‘status’ in society etc? if they don’t, what impact might this lack of knowledge have on your ability to retain (or gain) competitive advantage?

Lots of questions we know. We can’t give you the answers here despite many of you always asking us for solutions and answers! On this occasion we hope though we have given you enough information across just a few of the possible topics about discrimination for you to lead a discussion at senior or middle level to ask some tough questions.

  • Is lack of awareness costing you?
  • Is lack of awareness impacting employee retention?
  • Is lack of awareness causing you to miss out on great talent?
  • Is lack of awareness damaging your profitability and commercial competitiveness?

And finally …

If you want to find out more on these topics, here is a link to some infographics.

Jaluch support hundreds of organisations with their staffing challenges including supporting with D&I training, unconscious bias training, employment law training for line managers and also with investigating and managing grievances and disciplinaries. Please do ask us for support if the timing is right for you.

For up to date policies on family friendly, diversity, equal treatment policies etc please do check out – incredibly cost effective fully editable templates for your organisation.

The information contained within this article is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of employment and associated law and employee relations issues as at the date of publication. Jaluch Limited, or any of its directors or employees, cannot be held responsible for any action or inaction taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be sought on all individual matters.


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