Discrimination and Equal Pay

Although prohibited in the workplace, an employer can also be liable from the beginning of the recruitment process (when, of course, the applicants are not even employees).  Employers must therefore ensure that they abide by anti-discrimination legislation from the beginning of the recruitment process to the end of the employment relationship and beyond. 

Discrimination can take many different forms and can involve many different protected characteristics such as age, race, sex and religion.  It can also be direct or indirect.  An employer will directly discriminate against an employee if the employee is treated (or would be treated) less favourably than another person in the same or similar circumstances, and does so on grounds of one of the many protected characteristics.

An employer indirectly discriminates against an employee if a seemingly neutral provision, criteria or practice is applied that puts a protected group of employees at a particular disadvantage compared to other groups and which cannot be objectively justified.

Harassment and victimisation are also forms of discrimination.  Harassment is any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating the recipient’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.  This may take the form of one single incident, or it may be a series of incidents over time.

Victimisation is where an employer subjects a person to a detriment because the employee has made a complaint (or intends to make a complaint) about discrimination or has given evidence in relation to another person’s complaint of discrimination.

Again, it is important that a well-drafted and comprehensive policy on discrimination is set out in the staff handbook and proper procedures are in place for dealing with any instances of discrimination in the workplace.

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