Whether you are already in work or applying for jobs or an apprenticeship, it’s important to be aware of equality and diversity in the workplace. The legislation is vital for protecting the rights of individuals and will help you to:
1. know what your own rights are;
2. understand how to treat others you are working with.
What does equality mean?
Equality means treating employees equally ensuring there is no discrimination in the workplace and that everyone has the same opportunities.
In an ideal world, every employer would treat their staff equally, irrespective of their age, disabilities, gender, marital or civil partnership status, sexual orientation, race and religious beliefs (or lack of beliefs). A diverse workforce also tends to make economic sense, as it allows a company to benefit from the different skills of a range of employees.
Employees should also ensure that they treat all of their work colleagues equally and fairly, as well as others they come into contact with, such as suppliers, customers or service users.
More information can be found on www.gov.uk under the Department of Health tab.
Common examples of discrimination in the workplace
There are many possible ways that a member of staff or someone going to an interview could be discriminated against.
Here are just a few common examples:
1. An employer should not pay female staff less than male staff carrying out work of similar skill or responsibility
2. An organisation should not avoid promoting staff because of their sexuality
3. An employer should make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in the workplace
4. An interviewer should not ask a candidate certain questions, for example their age.
There are, however, some exemptions to these rules, which you should also be aware of. For example a driving instructor must be at least 21 years old, so a driving school would be permitted to ask a candidate their age if they appear younger than this.
Equality and writing your CV
When you are writing your CV, it’s useful to know what you do not have to disclose, especially if you feel there are issues that could unfairly prejudice your chance of getting an interview.
Whether you are applying for jobs and going for interviews or already in the workplace, it’s always a good idea to be aware of your rights.
Equality Act 2010
In October 2010, the government brought in a new Equality Act. This brought together a number of previous acts under one banner, including:
• the Equal Pay Act 1970
• the Sex Discrimination Act 1975
• the Race Relations Act 1976
• the Disability Discrimination Act 1995
• the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
• the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
• the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
• the Equality Act 2006, Part 2
• the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
The Equality and Human Rights Commission describes the Equality Act 2010 as providing:
“a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all”.
The Commission has published a number of guides to help organisations understand and follow this act – from employers to service providers to schools and colleges.
Training on equality and diversity
Because of the vast range of rules and exemptions, employers should ensure that all staff receive training on equality and diversity. It should not be presumed that people already understand the legislation as some of it can be quite complex and failure to comply can lead to issues in the workplace and, ultimately, an industrial tribunal.
What if I have been discriminated against?
If you think you have been discriminated against when applying for a job, in an interview situation, or in the workplace, you should seek professional advice.
If you work for a large organisation, you should speak to the personnel department about your concerns. If you belong to a union, they should also be able to help. Alternatively, you could seek advice from the Citizen’s Advice (www.citizensadvice.org.uk ; 0844 848 7970), from an external legal expert or from ACAS.
What is ACAS?
ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) is a public body run by the government that aims to prevent and resolve disputes relating to employment. It provides free and impartial advice, both to individuals and to organisations.
The organisation offers confidential and independent help; this can be accessed online: www.acas.org.uk/contact where you will also find frequently asked questions, or you can call a helpline adviser on 0300 123 1100 (8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-1pm Saturday).
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