There is a constant stream of developments surrounding equality, diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives, including regulations on pay gap reporting and discrimination laws.
Most companies work hard to create a safe and productive workplace, but how can businesses stay up to date on these policy and initiative changes, as well as mitigating risks?
Here Katie Ash, Head of Employment Law at Banner Jones Solicitors, explains what owners and decision makers need to know.
What is EDI, and why does it matter?
“EDI stands for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, which is underpinned by the Equality Act 2010 providing legal protection for employees based on nine ‘protected characteristics’,” Katie explains.
“Employers have a legal duty not to discriminate on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation".
“In practical terms though, having a strong EDI policy in place goes far beyond the legal obligation of an employer. It’s also about creating a workplace where everyone feels respected and valued and can reach their full potential.”
Who checks if my business is compliant?
“For many small businesses, it will only come to light that a company is not committed to EDI if a complaint is made following an incident or a claim is made. If, further to any claim, an employment tribunal finds that an employer has breached the Equality Act, the consequences can be extremely costly".
“For larger businesses there are specific reporting regulations that make public their commitment to equality. For example, the gender pay gap, being the difference in average pay between the men and women in your workforce".
“It is different to equal pay, which means you must pay men and women the same for equal or similar work. Employers in the private or voluntary sectors with 250 or more employees must publish their gender pay gap data every year. This also applies to specified public-sector employers in England (and a limited number of non-devolved bodies)".
“However, in all cases research shows that people want to work for employers with good employment practices, and so the consequences of not having the right policies and procedures in place could also have a negative impact on staff retention.”
How do I know I have the right policies and procedures in place?
Katie says: “The law is constantly evolving, so it can be difficult for business owners and decision makers to stay abreast of all changes".
“It’s important to maintain a regular review of your policies and contracts by an employment lawyer. This demonstrates to staff that you are taking your responsibilities seriously and can be invaluable if a complaint is made or a claim is filed further down the line".
“In a recent case, while our client had an EDI policy in place, it was found to be outdated and may not have been sufficient in demonstrating they had taken steps to prevent discrimination in the workplace. In this instance, the employer was able to resolve the matter amicably with the staff member, but if it had gone to court, they could have found themselves in hot water having to explain why their policy was inadequate and why they should not be liable for any alleged discrimination. It’s far easier and more cost effective to put appropriate plans in place to protect your employees and business, rather than to deal with a grievance or claim.”