Employment Alert – A reminder of the importance of Equality training
In a recent case, an employer tried to avoid liability in a race discrimination claim by saying that it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment. The ‘reasonable steps’ were the provision of Equality training to all its employees, including the perpetrator – which explained what harassment is and why it is unacceptable.
This ‘reasonable steps’ defence can absolve employers of liability in these cases and the provision of training is a fairly standard ‘step’ that is argued by employers.
In this particular case, the employer was not able to rely on the ‘reasonable steps’ defence. This was because a) the training had been given over a year before the harassment and b) it had become ‘stale’ and needed refreshing.
It found that this was apparent from the racist comments made to the employee and because managers were failing to report the comments once aware.
Why is this important?
Employers cannot simply rely on the fact that there is a policy in place or that training has been provided if the policy and training are not actively updated and followed.
This is of particular importance with many employees working from home. We have seen examples of employees taking a far more relaxed approach to communication. If this accidently extends into discrimination/harassment, the employer will be liable.
What should you do?
- Ensure you have comprehensive policies in place regarding discrimination and harassment and that these are regularly reviewed and updated (as applicable).
- Ensure you are providing training to all of your employees to ensure they fully understand their obligations under the policies and expected behaviour in the workplace. Consider whether to provide further or separate tailored sessions to managers on their increased obligations.
- Provide refresher training at least once every year of employment and make sure the training is updated and relevant.
- Ensure you fully investigate any allegation or complaint under the policy and take appropriate action in the event of a breach.
For those interested, the case was Allay (UK) Limited v Gehlen.
If you want a quote for a policy update or Equality training, please contact us on 0800 2800 421 or email Employment.Alert@trethowans.com to find out how we can help.