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Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Harassment Policies

harassment policiesEmployers can be held vicariously liable under the Equality Act for all forms of discrimination and harassment related to a protected characteristic unless they take all reasonable steps to prevent their employee from acting in the way held to be discrimination or harassment.

In addition, new regulations place a positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment. Employers must take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment or risk enforcement steps from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and uplifts in compensation in the face of successful Employment Tribunal claims.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policies are the first “reasonable step” an employer of any size can take to prevent discrimination. We recommend separate Anti-Harassment policies deal with all forms of harassment, not only sexual harassment, again as the first “reasonable step” both to comply with the positive duty on sexual harassment and to prevent vicarious liability for employees’ unlawful acts.

We can

  • Draft appropriate policies
  • Advise on the “reasonable steps” you should be considering to comply with your positive duty to prevent sexual harassment
  • Advise on risks if employees make formal or informal complaints about harassment or discrimination
  • Coach you through formal or informal complaints about harassment or discrimination
  • Help you reach a mutually agreeable resolution with employees who have complained about harassment or discrimination
  • Defend Employment Tribunal claims for harassment or discrimination

If you require expert legal advice and assistance in relation to Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Harassment Policies get in touch with our experienced employment solicitors today by calling 0800 086 2929 emailing info@elitelawsolicitors.co.uk or by completing our Free Online Enquiry Form.

What are “reasonable steps” to prevent harassment or discrimination?

What is “reasonable” will depend on the size and resource of the individual employer, and their particular circumstances, which will include the risks that their staff might be victims of discrimination and/or harassment.

Common “reasonable steps” are:

  • Policies that educate staff on the Equality Act and set out how the organisation will deal with complaints about discrimination and harassment
  • Training staff on the Equality Act, on their obligations, what constitutes discrimination and harassment, and how to deal with it if they witness it
  • Encouraging staff to report discrimination and harassment when they experience or witness it
  • Training managers on how to deal with complaints about discrimination and harassment
  • Training managers on how to proactively prevent discrimination and harassment in their teams
  • Investigating, and dealing appropriately, with all informal and formal complaints about discrimination and harassment
  • For larger organisations, systems that can monitor reports of discrimination and harassment, highlight trends, assess risks and identify further steps to prevent discrimination and harassment

What are protected characteristics?

The Equality Act 2010 consolidated all strands of discrimination law and introduced the concept of protected characteristics, which are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy and Maternity
  • Race
  • Religion and Belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation

What is direct discrimination?

Direct discrimination is where person A treats person B less favourably because of a protected characteristic.

Person B does not need to have the protected characteristic – for example it would be direct discrimination to treat someone less favourably because they associate with persons who have the protected characteristic. It is also direct discrimination to treat someone less favourably because of a perception that they have a protected characteristic – for example because it is believed that they have a particular sexual orientation.

What is indirect discrimination?

Indirect discrimination is where a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) applies to all but places persons of a particular protected characteristic at particular disadvantage and the employer cannot show the PCP to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Whilst a complex definition, indirect discrimination is more easily explained by examples. Uniform policies that affect particular religions would be indirect discrimination unless they can be justified, for example by reason of health and safety.

What is victimisation?

Victimisation is where person A subjects person B to a detriment because person B has done a “protected act” or person A believes that person B has done or may do a protected act.

The following are protected acts:

  • Bringing proceedings under the Equality Act
  • Giving evidence or information in connection with proceedings under the Equality Act
  • Making an allegation either that A or any other person has contravened the Equality Act
  • Doing any other thing for the purposes of or in connection with the Equality Act

Giving false evidence or information or making false allegations is not protected if this is done in bad faith.

When might employers be liable for harassment under the Equality Act?

Harassment is defined in the Equality Act as unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic that has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

Harassment does not have to be intentional provided that it is reasonable for the unwanted conduct to have the effect of violating a person’s dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

How Elite Law Solicitors can help

At Elite Law Solicitors, our experienced Employment Solicitors can help your business by advising and assisting in relation to Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Harassment Policies. We are able to help with:

  • Drafting appropriate policies
  • Advising on the “reasonable steps” you should be considering to comply with your positive duty to prevent sexual harassment
  • Advising on risks if employees make formal or informal complaints about harassment or discrimination
  • Coaching you through formal or informal complaints about harassment or discrimination
  • Helping you reach a mutually agreeable resolution with employees who have complained about harassment or discrimination
  • Defending Employment Tribunal claims for harassment or discrimination

If you require expert legal advice and assistance in relation to Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Harassment Policies get in touch with our experienced employment solicitors today by calling 0800 086 2929 emailing info@elitelawsolicitors.co.uk or by completing our Free Online Enquiry Form.

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