The UK introduced the Equality Act 2010 bringing together discrimination legislation under one piece of legislation. From January 1, 2020, the final two protected characteristics of the IOM Equality Act 2017 – Age and Disability – came into effect. But what does this actually mean for businesses in practical terms and how can companies best protect themselves from falling foul of this new legislation?
In brief, the IOM Equality Act 2017 makes it unlawful to discriminate, harass or victimise an individual in the workplace or when providing goods, services or public functions on the basis of their:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
Complying with the Equality Act is not just a legal obligation, it also makes critical business sense. That’s because we live in a diverse world and by embracing diversity, your business will generally run more efficiently, more productively and show that it is built around a supportive culture.
Is your business prepared?
While the total enforcement of the IOM Equality Act 2017 should not come as too much of a surprise for businesses, many – especially smaller firms – will need to amend policies and procedures to ensure they fully comply with the updated legislation.
The legislation changes the way that employers deal with all areas of people practice; everything from recruitment (including application forms), selection and redundancy to promotions, grievances, disciplinary proceedings and more.
Here are a couple of tangible discrimination examples to give you a better idea of what you need to prepare for:
- Let’s say you (the employer) assumed it would be too difficult for one of your disabled employees to attend a training course and as a result they missed out. Direct disability discrimination will have occurred. An example of indirect disability discrimination could be if your workplace canteen is difficult for disabled individuals to access.
- When it comes to age discrimination, the compulsory retirement of any employee when they reach a given age would be a prime example. In general, an employee will have the right to continue to work until either they retire voluntarily or they are no longer capable of carrying out their role to a sufficient standard – which would need to be assessed and managed through capability procedures.
Failure to comply with the updated legislation could result in discrimination claims being filed against you. Not only could these claims result in hefty legal bills, penalties and cost you in terms of time lost, they will also have a negative impact on your reputation.
Ask yourself, will the best new talent be attracted to an employer that has been seen to unfairly discriminate in the past? Will your current staff and customers hold you in such high regard going forward?
So where do you start?
First and foremost, businesses need to take action now, as the deadline has already been and gone, so that means the IOM Equality Act 2017 is in full effect. But you also need to ensure you act in the right way.
So, before you jump in and start making changes to your employment documents, HR policies, processes and practices, make sure you consult an expert in the first instance. This ensures that everything will be in line from the outset and you won’t need to spend more time and money in the future correcting areas that were either missed or wrongly amended.
This is why a crucial step is to carry out an audit of existing practices, procedures and documents to identify any areas that could be deemed untoward. That’s where working with a professional HR partner can make a huge difference.
Another obvious consideration is the need to train your management and staff so they are aware of, and understand, the implications of the new legislation.
Here at Positive Solutions HR, I pride myself on providing a personable, dedicated, cost effective, one-to-one service. My range of packages are designed to suit all budgets, allowing every business to benefit from hands on, expert, practical advice. Plus, the fact that I explain everything in a manner that’s easy to understand means you can be confident when implementing any necessary changes – and I will, of course, assist you with this step too.
I won’t bamboozle you with legal jargon, just explain what needs to be done and offer straightforward, affordable advice on how to do it.
This short guide has been written by Nicola Quayle, founder of Positive Solutions HR Limited. If you would like more information on how the IOM Equality Act 2017 could impact your business in 2020, consider giving me a call on 07624 481335 or email email@example.com