Discrimination

Too old for work?

30 Mar
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Discrimination, gender   |  No Comments

I am absolutely useless at guessing a persons age.

Whether they are a child, a young adult, a mature adult or an octogenarian, I am just one of those people who can’t tell how old a person is.

I was once told that we needed to organise a gift for a fellow member of an organisation for his 100th birthday.

 “100, are you sure? Can we check that with someone? There is no way he is 100, I had him down for mid to late 70s!” Chess

This little old man was absolutely incredible. He loved chess and still taught it in schools and clubs. On tournament days, he loved nothing more than walking up and down the ranks of players, assessing their positions and providing feedback to them after the game. He would be on his feet from 9 am – 5 pm with a short break for lunch.

100? How?!

With the abolition of the default retirement age (DRA) in April 2011, business owners are increasingly struggling with effectively managing older workers.

The risk of an employment tribunal (ET) case against them for age discrimination looms large over the heads of many employers who are too scared to have a conversation about:

  • Poor performance
  • The employee no longer able to cope
  • The number of mistakes being made
  • The excessive time taken to complete simple tasks.

We are increasingly being asked to help manage older workers out of the business, but in many cases the older worker has been with the business for 20+ years, is part of the furniture and ‘as good as family’.

One client had a 75-year-old caretaker who still insisted climbing ladders to change lightbulbs and cycling home in the dark after locking up the hall following council meetings.

Another client has tried to have a conversation with a member of staff who is making far too many mistakes, only to be told that they will have to carry him out dead as he has no savings, this is his only income and he has no intention of retiring…. ever!

And I had to persuade my own grandma at 80+ to retire as her colleagues were having to redo all her work due to the number of mistakes she was making. How do you tell someone who had run her own businesses, been a highly efficient secretary / PA and had in her latter years been working for a family friend who had known her since he was 5 years old, that she could no longer do the job for which she was being paid?

I could go on.

The harsh reality is that with no DRA, if you want to go belt and braces to avoid the risk of an ET, you have to performance manage the older worker out and that means disciplinary and ultimately dismissal.

For most of our clients this is the least preferred option. They have respect for these workers, they like these employees, in many cases they have learnt a lot from these employees and yet ……..

There is no effective, watertight alternative.

70 womanA BBC article this week disclosed the statistic that the number of women retiring in their 70s has doubled in the last 4 years, from 5.6% to 11.3%. For men the number retiring in their 70’s is 15.6%.

There are lots of reasons for the increase including people living healthier for longer, pensions not being sufficient to support longer lives and people wanting to ‘have a purpose’ for longer.

While there are many advantages for business owners such as an experienced and committed workforce, the disadvantages are beginning to mount up.

Not only are some older workers no longer able to cope, but deteriorating health of themselves or their partners begin to lead to increased absences.  There is also a lack of vacancies for younger workers to join the business and progression is often blocked resulting in people leaving as more senior positions are filled with older workers.

When the older workers do leave, there is then a skills gap in the business as experienced people have left to progress their careers elsewhere.

So what are the options?

  • We have already mentioned performance management and capability disciplinaries leading to dismissals.
  • Redundancy is another option, but with an older worker who has been with the business for 20+ years, this can be expensive.
  • Another way to have a discussion with an older worker about their retirement plans is to have a without prejudice, protected conversation. If you go down this route, it will probably – although not always – result in a settlement agreement and a payment equal to or in excess of redundancy.
  • An alternative might be through a medical process. You would need to have a conversation with the employee and get permission to write to their GP. You would then hopefully receive a report from the GP that supported your concerns about the employee in the workplace. However, a GP is unlikely to tell the employee to retire and may make suggestions such as cutting down on hours or changing to lighter duties.

 

A great time to start a discussion about retirement might be as part of a goals and aspirations discussion as part of the appraisal process.

Asking all employees on an annual basis where they see themselves in 1, 3 and 5 years time can be very powerful. It enables you to support growth of your up and coming talent and it can facilitate a conversation about retirement with your older workers.

As a business owner, being able to gain an insight into the heads of your employees, understand what drives them and what you need to do to develop (or exit) staff is essential for the long-term health of your business.

As with many things in HR, there is no single golden solution, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. The route that you choose to go down will depend on you, your business culture, the employee concerned, your relationship with them and in some cases, your approach to risk.

There is no age-related need for an employee to retire; you can’t make them retire and any botched attempt to do so has the potential to end at the Employment Tribunal.

Extreme care should be taken and expert support sought at the earliest stages, before a friendly conversation is used against you.

Is this an issue that’s affecting your business at the moment?  If you’d benefit from a brief telephone call about it, give us a call now on 01923 504100 or hit reply and let us have your thoughts.

Discrimination

15 Dec
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Discrimination, Video   |  No Comments

This is one you need to understand to ensure you protect your business!
Boring – Yes!
Essential – Yes!
Expensive if you get it wrong – Yes!

Special Needs

05 Dec
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Disability Discrimination, Discrimination, HR, Interviewing, Recruitment, Video   |  No Comments

People don’t need to be employees to take an employment tribunal claim against you (although they usually are, or have been). Job applicants who feel they have missed out on a job due to discrimination can also lodge an employment tribunal claim and therefore taking any special needs into consideration at the recruitment and interview stage is really important.

 

 

If you need any support with recruitment or interviewing, give us a ring or take a look at our Interviewer’s Toolkit.

 

 

Bullying is prevalent in UK workplaces… and it’s on the rise

19 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Bullying, Discrimination, Policies and Procedures, Race Discrimination   |  No Comments

It’s National Anti-Bullying Week, and shockingly, Acas have reported that over the past year they received around 20,000 calls about harassment and bullying at work.

Some callers even reported that workplace bullying caused them to self-harm or have suicidal thoughts.

Bullying is defined as any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. It’s not necessarily always apparent to others, and may be happening in the workplace without your awareness.

Recently published results of the largest ever survey (with 24,000 responses) regarding attitudes towards race in the workplace, contained some particularly troubling findings…

According to the Race at Work report from Business in the Community (BITC), racial harassment and bullying in the workplace is prevalent.

The report found 3 out of 10 employees in the UK had witnessed or experienced racial harassment in the workplace in the last year alone, a disappointing increase on previous years.

Only 55% of Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) workers said they felt like a valued member of their team, compared to 71% of white employees.

Despite this, 65% of BAME staff said they enjoy working for their organisation, compared to 61% of white employees. Additionally, 64% of BAME employees said they’re keen to progress in the workplace, whereas for white employees the number was a mere 41%.

Sandra Kerr, race equality director at BITC stated:

“Despite having greater enjoyment and ambition for work, the experience of workplace processes and cultures for BAME employees is certainly not ideal. This is compounded by the extremely worrying finding that incidents of racial harassment and bullying appear to be on the rise. The scale of this challenge is immense and needs immediate action.”

This report raises some major issues that employers absolutely must address.

But workplace bullying isn’t limited to racism.

Results of another study have been released this week, revealing that workplace bullying is a growing problem in Britain and many people are simply too afraid to speak up about it.

People don’t always feel confident enough to complain, particularly if the harasser is a manager or senior member of staff. Sometimes, they’ll quite simply resign.

It’s therefore very important for employers to ensure that staff are fully aware of the options available to them when it comes to bullying or harassment, and that these of course remain confidential.

These findings provide some real eye-opening truths on the current state of bullying in the workplace, and it’s vital that employers reflect on these results and have a good look at their working environment.

Start taking action today to ensure that your business is fully implementing anti-bullying policies and utilising managers with good people management skills. Here are some recommendations for taking action:

  • Promote training and awareness of bullying in the workplace (there are more incidences of bullying within minority ethnic groups; women in male-dominated workplaces; those with disabilities or long-term health problems; LGBT people; and those working in health care)
  • All people managers to have mandatory training to deal with bullying and harassment (inexperienced employers feel they lack the skills to go through complex grievance and disciplinary procedures that bullying allegations may involve)
  • Managers at every level to have objectives around ensuring harmony and inclusion in their teams (managers alerted to bullying allegations may favour simply moving staff around rather than investigating and dealing with underlying behaviours)
  • Senior leaders to recognise that harassment and bullying exists and take action to erase it from the workplace
  • Employers to review succession planning lists to ensure the inclusion of diverse talent from all walks of life
  • Ensure appropriate policies and procedures are in place (barriers to people making complaints to do something about unwanted behaviour might make the situation worse)

You may not be aware of any bullying or harassment in your workplace, but according to these recent results, the chances are there may be something going on.

Bullying is the enemy of diversity and consequently, business performance and profits.

By not challenging unacceptable behaviour and not effectively implementing your Anti-Bullying Policy, you put your diverse culture at risk, and ultimately, your business itself.

You can make a difference.

Commit to speaking out.

If you witness behaviour that you consider to be bullying or harassment, take action. If you hear someone in the office use unacceptable language, challenge it.

Let’s prevent these numbers from rising any further, instead, we can take action and decrease them.

If you’re interested any further advice regarding this sensitive issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us

And if you’d like to have a listen of my recent interview where I discuss my thoughts on this subject, you can do so by clicking this link!

How Well Does Your School Promote Equality?

18 Dec
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Discrimination, education, employee rights, Equality Act, Equality Bill, Schools   |  1 Comments

Equality and DiversityYour school is keen to promote equality. However there have been reports recently suggesting that some schools are not publishing equality information as required by legislation. Therefore, now might be the time for you to ask just how well your school promotes equality. Use the questions below to help you to review your current approach.

 

 

#1 – Do You Have An Equality Policy?

You need a document that sets out how you intend to make sure you deal with equality issues in accordance with the law. What does your document say about how you treat your staff? What does your document say about how you treat students?

#2 – Have You Committed To Implementing Your Policy?

Creating a policy is a start. You also need to ensure you have procedures in place to guide staff on how to implement the policy and to help embed the policy in the culture of your school.

#3 – Do You Have Robust Reporting Mechanisms In Place?

Do you have ways of bringing concerns to the attention of the right people, if issues related to your equality policy emerge? Have you made sure that people in school do not feel inhibited about reporting their concerns about equality?  Do people feel confident that, if they report their concerns, they will not themselves be blamed for causing problems?

#4 – Do You Have Review Mechanisms In Place?

Every policy needs review. Is there a committee, or are designated individuals, tasked to make certain your policy is being implemented and working as it should?  How is change sanctioned? Do the people who review the working of your policy have the authority to make changes or do they simply recommend change?

#5 – Do You Share Good Practice?

How is the issue of equality being dealt with in other local schools and in schools similar to yours? Do you know? Do you share what you do well with other schools? Do you also learn from other schools, and introduce new ideas which work well elsewhere into your own practice?

Are you keeping up to date with any changes in legislation that may affect how you manage the issue of equality for the future?

… Finally

Do you take the time to listen to what people say about your equality policy? If you asked the question: how well does our school promote equality in the staff room or at the school gates, are you confident that you would receive the sort of response you would like to hear?

DOHR are specialists in HR. Check out the services we offer to schools: http://dohr.co.uk/schools/ If you like this post, please share it on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Have we missed anything?  Let us know in the comments below.

Recruiting Blind

18 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Discrimination, HR Policy, HR Support, Human Resources, Policies and Procedures, Race Discrimination, Recruitment, war for talent   |  3 Comments

Would you? Could you?
Over 100 UK businesses have pledged to recruit blind as a way of increasing social mobility and reducing the risk of discrimination candidates with submit their applications on standard company from without a name or school.

As an HR professional, I’m not sure how I feel about this.

15 years ago I developed application forms with tear off flaps for equal opportunity monitoring. The forms were all numbered sequentially and the applicant tracked through the system by number so we monitored age, gender and ethnicity. It actually made no difference to our employee demographics. It did however take time and resources to manage and continually monitor the applicants through recruitment, selection and promotion within the company. Even at the time, removing date of birth from the application form seemed odd – you just needed to look at when someone was at school or entered the workplace to be able to estimate their age.

So now we are removing name and school as well. Will it really make a difference? Will this prevent ‘the old boys network’ from blocking social mobility?

Companies signing up to the Compact have also agreed to use schools and other public forums to advertise work experience / intern opportunities rather than offering the places to informal contacts.

Thinking about your business, would you prefer to advertise for a junior in your local schools or take the son / daughter of an existing employee or a friend?

Is this the end of the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”?

Large Employers vs Small Employers

12 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Discrimination, employee rights, Employment Legislation, HR, HR Consultancy, HR Policy, Human Resources, public sector   |  No Comments

So often when I am advising my clients on HR issues, they ask me how the big boys do it. How do they operate in the way they do? How do they get round the employment legislation advice I am giving my clients? My answer has usually been something along the lines of – they have enough people to manage, they get good HR advice, they are very familiar with the contents of employment legislation etc.

Listening to Moneybox Live on Radio 4 this week, I was horrified at what I was hearing! The topic of discussion was equality, rights and pay at work. Many of the callers worked for large, unionised public bodies, yet the degree of discrimination was alarming. As an HR Consultant, I could not believe that the behaviours and attitudes reported were stilling going on in large public organisations today.

So next time my clients ask me how the big boys do it, I will tell them that they do it badly and do and will continue to pay for their mistakes until they start complying with employment legislation.

Small companies can not afford the cost of defending employment tribunal cases, they need to ensure they are fully compliant as soon as possible and stay that way by updating their HR policies and procedures as employment legislation changes.

BNI – 60 Seconds – 9th November

09 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Disability Discrimination, Discrimination, Hertfordshire, HR Consultancy, HR Policy, HR Support, Race Discrimination, Sexual Orientation   |  No Comments

Can your clients afford to settle an employment tribunal claim?

Now, I don’t like scarring you, but in 2009 – 10, there were 392,800 claims of which 24% were working time directive related, 19% were unauthorised deductions from wages and 32% were unfair dismissal, breach of contract or redundancy related.

– In 2008 – 09 the highest award for unfair dismissal was just over £84k while the average was just under £8k. This excludes time and the cost of advice and representation.
– For Race Discrimination the maximum award was just over £1.3m and the average award was £32,115.
– Disability Discrimination cases settled by the tribunals included a case awarded £388,612, averaging £27,235.
– For cases with Sexual Orientation Discrimination jurisdiction, the maximum award handed down was for £63,222, and these cases averaged awards of £23,668.

The biggest gift you can give your clients this year, is to make sure they are fully compliant with employment legislation.

Today, I want to help you to protect your best client. I am looking for a referral to your best client (as long as they are an employer).

Are your beliefs ‘protected’ in law?

03 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Business, Discrimination, employent law, HR   |  4 Comments

I’m sure many of you do not follow the employment case law. However, when it makes the six o’clock BBC news, it may be worth paying attention to.

Firstly, in case any of you have missed it, here are links to two articles about the said Employment Appeal Tribunal decision handed down today. The actual EAT judgement and a BBC article summarising it.

So, what are the implication for employers?

Well since the introduction of the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003 discimination of any employee on the basis of “any religion, religious belief, or philosophical belief” has been illegal. Religion and religious belief have been widely understood and consistently interpreteted, but philosophical belief is harder to define; and if you can’t define something, how can you prevent discrimination on the basis of it?

When the law was first introduced there were concerns about office banter over many a passionate belief – football teams for example. Employee A supports Local Team United and all other employees (and the boss) support Local Team City. Can office banter be deemed discriminatory if employee A is not promoted, not offered the same opportunities etc?

When is a political belief or a deep rooted way of life a philosophical belief protected in law?

How does this affect company policy on discrimination, bullying, harrassment and equality of opportunity?

This is a case which we should all now be watching.

Thoughts and experiences please.

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