A huge 57% increase in race related incidents was reported between Thursday and Sunday compared with the same period four weeks earlier according to the statistics from the National Police Chiefs’ Council. If media reports are believed, this is a fraction of those that have taken place and gone unreported.
When racist comments and behaviours spill into the workplace, employers can be left facing claims of discrimination or harassment and face hefty legal claims. The days and months ahead, may well be uncertain. What is crystal clear is that businesses remain responsible for their employees and their actions, and failing to prevent harassment in the workplace is not only bad for your staff, it is bad for your business. If the actions of your staff have the effect of creating an intimidating, offensive or hostile environment due to race, nationality, ethnicity or colour, you may find yourself on the wrong end of an Employment Tribunal claim and your business reputation severely affected.
Reminding staff of the need for tolerance and respect may help. Sending offending staff members on a training course after the event may help to educate them. However, if a business wishes to rely upon the statutory defence to defend a discrimination claim, they must be able to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent such discrimination or harassment from arising in the first place.
Blowing off the dust on your equal opportunities policy will not be sufficient, neither will relying upon induction training provided years ago. Employers need to be able to actively demonstrate that employees (and managers) have been trained on equal opportunities issues, know how to tackle discrimination when it arises, and show that they tackled it effectively when the situation arose. It requires the employer to be pro-active, not re-active. Providing training after the incident has occurred will not provide a defence.
Allegations of discrimination are tricky to handle. Instilling your managers with confidence on how to deal with them, and giving them the know-how to diffuse inflammatory situations makes both commercial and legal sense. Our employment law training day does just that. It also enables you to show that your managers have been trained on discrimination and harassment issues, and provides practical guidance on handling such concerns. It allows you to demonstrate that you have taken reasonable steps to prevent discrimination arising, and therefore rely on the statutory defence should a member of staff overstep the mark. In times when tensions are running high, the course provides one way of helping you to protect your business.
Whatever external influences your business faces, in sending managers for training on such issues, you can be sure that you have taken steps internally to protect your business, your staff and your future.
If you would like to discuss any issues raised in this article, we have specific employment law expertise in advising in this area. For further advice, please contact Angela Gorton.
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.