Most if not all companies have an equal opportunities and diversity policy which state the company will take active steps to promote good practices and regularly review relevant policies. The question is though, how often do you review those policies and are they actually relevant to your working practices?
Your policy, practice and culture could include the following:
Working towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination, harassment, and victimisation based on a protected characteristic, whether actual, perceptive, or associative.
Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.
Foster good relations between persons who share a protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.
Subject policies for continuous assessment in order to examine how they affect protected groups and to identify whether policies help to achieve equal opportunities for all these groups, or whether they have an adverse impact.
Monitor the recruitment and progress of all employees, and consider if collecting and collating equalities information would benefit your organisation to improve practices.
Promote an inclusive culture, good practice in teaching, learning, and assessment, and good management practice, through the development of codes of best practice, policies, and training.
Publish policies widely amongst staff, together with policy assessments, equality analysis and results of monitoring.
It is not sufficient to have a policy in place but being unable to evidence the application, training and understanding by staff. If an employee was to make a claim against you for harassment and/or discrimination, would you be able to evidence policy reviews and regular employee training in, not only the equal opportunities policy, but the grievance, harassment and bullying policies too?
Another point to consider is workplace banter. In Minto v Wernick Event Hire Ltd, a female employee, M, was subjected to daily remarks that were of the same sexual nature as the theme of the “Carry On” films. Her manager gave evidence that banter, including strong language, was an everyday fact of life. The tribunal found that this amounted to sex discrimination and harassment. The tribunal said: “‘Banter’ is a loose expression, covering what otherwise might be abusive behaviour on the basis that those participating do so willingly and on an equal level. It can easily transform into bullying when a subordinate employee effectively has no alternative but to accept/participate in this conduct to keep his or her job.”
To successfully defend at a tribunal you will need to be able to evidence that such behaviour is not condoned and appropriate action is taken.
All employees have a responsibility to ensure their behaviour provides a comfortable and safe environment but your managers, team leaders and supervisors are required to ensure unnecessary banter is not part of the workplace and action is taken where necessary.
If you have questions regarding your policy documents or would like to discuss possible training delivery for staff and managers, please contact your HR Consultancy team.