New laws will lead to many employers facing large compensation claims?
|Many experts believe that there will inevitably be an exponential increase in the number of employers finding themselves before an employment tribunal. This is because discrimination laws become more widely applicable and new legislation comes into force in April 2007. Apart from the great many laws that protect people from being discriminated against on the basis of their gender, reassigned gender, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation or age there are also aspects of other legal frameworks that can be applied to enable the victims of discrimination to seek redress against their employer.
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Recent decisions under The Protection from Harassment Act, intended as anti-stalking legislation, have resulted in the employer paying substantial sums in compensation. This is because the employer can be held vicariously liable for illegal conduct by their employees in the course of their duties.
Many employers feel that having an Equal Opportunities policy in writing will be enough to protect them from such claims, be assured – it will not. Employment tribunals have shown that they expect to see evidence that an employer is committed to the policy and that they have taken all reasonable steps to ensure that discrimination does not take place.
So, what steps should an employer take to demonstrate their commitment to anti-discrimination laws and thus help to protect themselves in the event of a claim being brought against them? Here are some basic guidelines:
- Acknowledge that discrimination occurs.
- Establish a clear message that discrimination, harassment and victimisation are not acceptable in the workplace and be prepared to abide by and enforce these policies.
- Check all their policies, systems and practices to see where discrimination might exist and be prepared to make changes to improve things.
- Train personnel in how to recognise and deal with discrimination.
- Put in place a clear and independent process for dealing with complaints in a transparent way.
- Continuously review what they are doing.
- Make people accountable by making it part of their job description that they must not discriminate.
- Get to know the new legislation.
You can develop your own understanding of discrimination and the consequences of it occurring in your organisation by attending The Essential Guide to Equality in the Workplace.
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