There are a number of grounds on which discrimination is illegal, and discrimination at work can have a devastating impact on your business if it is proven that an employee was unfairly treated. Employers should note, whether it is you personally or one of your supervisors, discrimination can be unintentional and can even happen before employment, such as in the recruitment process.
Discrimination at work exists if an employer:
• gives an employee different terms of employment, different conditions, less opportunities for training than other employees when they have the same experience or qualifications and if they are employed under similar circumstances
• dismisses an employee or makes a decision which negatively impacts their ability to perform the job when other employees doing a similar job are not treated the same
• forces an employee to retire or resign by negatively designing the job
All of the above points count as discrimination if their cause is found to be a prohibited ground of discrimination.
A prohibited ground of discrimination is when an employee is treated negatively based on any of the following features:
• race or skin colour
• nationality or ethnicity
• sex (which extends to pregnancy of an employee or delivering a child)
• sexual orientation
• religious beliefs or ethics
• marital status or family status
• status of employment
• any political opinion
• union activity
All of the above are grounds on which discrimination is illegal under the Employment Relations Act 2000 as well as the Human Rights Act 1993. An allegation of discrimination will be dealt with under the Human Rights Act 1993 if it is a prospective employee that is asked a question on any of the grounds above.
An employee will often be advised to, in the first instance, raise any alleged discrimination with you in an informal conversation. If this does not resolve the issue, there are further options available to the affected employee.
Under the Employment Relations Act 2000, the process can include a support person, such as a union representative or lawyer, to discuss the issue. Failing this, there is a free mediation service available to employees, and the final option for an employee if all else has failed is to take the issue to the Employment Relations Authority.
If any alleged discrimination takes place before employment, the complaint is handled under the Human Rights Act 1993. There is a formal process to be followed, if mediation fails in the first step, with the potential for these complaints to end up in the Human Rights Commission.
Allegations of discrimination at work are serious and not to be taken lightly. Failing to address any allegations early and fairly can lead to a lengthy and expensive process before the Employment Relations Authority or potentially the Human Rights Commission. To get your processes and policies in place to eliminate or address discrimination at work call Employsure on 0800 675 700 day or night.