Discrimination claims can severely damage a business. Even where businesses don’t intend to disadvantage certain employees, discrimination complaints can quickly lead to lengthy and expensive litigation, disruption to the business, and the detrimental loss to their reputation and integrity.
At Gepp, our employment team have extensive expertise helping employers comply with discrimination laws under the Equality Act 2010 and guiding and supporting them through complaints, dispute resolution processes, and Employment Tribunal proceedings.
Our goal is to minimise interference with your business wherever possible. Our first step will always be to familiarise ourselves with your employment contracts, policies and procedures and your commercial strategy so we can carefully tailor our advice to your specific needs.
In the vast majority of situations, we can help employers resolve matters informally, using cooperative discussion and methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution such as mediation and arbitration. We’re also experienced with supporting clients through Acas (Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service) conciliation.
Where matters do progress to the Employment Tribunal, we can provide clear, realistic advice on your prospects for success, build you a robust defence strategy, and advise on the risks to your business. It’s preferable to avoid Employment Tribunal proceedings because of the costs and reputational risk to you.
As experts in negotiation, we’ll aim to help you settle the case before any Tribunal claim is made and can also draft detailed settlement agreements which waive the employee’s right to start a claim once settlement is agreed.
How our employment solicitors can help you protect your business from workplace discrimination claims
We advise employers across all sectors and business structure, including sole traders, partnerships and limited liability companies, in relation to discrimination law and claims under the Equality Act 2010.
In general, it is illegal for an employer to treat an employee less favourably because of a specific characteristic, whether it be due to their sex, race, or a disability. We appreciate that in many situations, you may not realise that certain actions or policies could amount to discrimination. However, this isn’t a defence. All employers who are not mindful of their obligations under discrimination law open themselves up to disputes and potential claims.
We offer comprehensive discrimination advice services, including:
- Contract, document, and policy review services to ensure your business is compliant with the law
- Training on implementing policies and procedures in a non-discriminatory way
- Advice on reasonable adjustments, including dealing with flexible working requests and adapting workspaces
- Assisting in the informal resolution of discrimination issues, including advice on adhering to the Acas guidance on equality and diversity
- Helping you access Alternative Dispute Resolution methods such as mediation and arbitration to resolve discrimination disputes
- Supporting you through Acas conciliation
- Negotiating settlement, including agreeing compensation and drafting and reviewing settlement agreements
- Providing robust advice and representation throughout any Employment Tribunal proceedings
Protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
An employee might complain about discrimination on the basis of one or multiple protected characteristics, and no characteristic holds more weight than the others.
Types of workplace discrimination
There are four main types of discrimination under the Equality Act:
This is where an employee is the direct recipient of unfair treatment because of:
- A protected characteristic. For example, an employee is paid less than a male colleague with the same job title and comparable skill because they’re a woman
- A characteristic of someone they’re associated with (such as a family member or colleague). For example, an employee is passed over for a promotion because they’re a part-time care for an unwell family member and it’s assumed the new position will be too stressful
- A perceived protected characteristic. For example, an employee is hired on unfavourable contract terms because they’re assumed to have a certain disability
This form of discrimination is usually less obvious than direct discrimination and occurs where an employer implements policies, procedures or practices which apply to everyone but put certain people or groups of people at a disadvantage.
- A policy which requires all job applicants to have at least 10 years’ experience may indirectly discriminate against younger people
- A policy which requires all employees to work Saturdays without exception may indirectly discriminate against practicing Jewish people
If you’re concerned about the impact of your policies and procedures, we can provide a detailed review, including advice on whether the policies can be objectively justified.
Harassment is unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic which makes employees feel degraded, offended, humiliated, or intimidated. The behaviour does not have to be perpetuated by the employer directly; an employee may be able to make a claim if an employer fails to prevent harassing behaviour by another employee.
Harassment can be:
- Bullying, nicknames, imitations, threats, jokes or “banter”, inappropriate comments or questions, and exclusions (such as ignoring the employee) on the basis of a protected characteristic
- Written notes, emails, or letters and putting up posters making fun of or denouncing a protected characteristic
- Based on the perception of an employee, even if they’re not part of the protected group concerned
Victimisation occurs when an employee is treated badly because they:
- Made an allegation of discrimination
- Supported a colleague with their discrimination complaint
- Gave evidence relating to a discrimination complaint
- Did anything else relating to the Equality Act 2010, such as bringing a discrimination Employment Tribunal claim
Disability under the Equality Act 2010 and Reasonable Adjustments
If an employee is considered disabled under the Equality Act 2010, their employer is legally required to make reasonable adjustments to their working environment.
The definition of disabled is a physical or mental impairment which lasts at least 12 months (or is likely to last at least 12 months) and results in “substantial” effects on the employee’s ability to undertake day-to-day activities.
Reasonable adjustments could include improving accessibility to the workplace or the employee’s workstation, allowing time to take breaks, changing the employee’s work hours, or making flexible working arrangements.
If you’re aware of an employee’s disability but you do not take steps to make reasonable adjustments, the employee can claim discrimination.
Our services include providing advice and guidance on making reasonable adjustments, including whether the adjustments are practical, financially viable, and effective. We also provide advice in relation to complaints and claims relating to discrimination on the basis of a failure to make reasonable adjustments.
We have 4 members of the team who may work on your matter.
Alexandra Dean, Partner
Nilam Dave, Solicitor
Joshua Fresle, Paralegal
Jemma Bennett, Paralegal
Whoever works on your matter they will ultimately be supervised by Alexandra Dean, Partner.