The Black Lives Matters movement continues to rightfully garner support worldwide, and it is important to realise that the issues of discrimination are still, unfortunately, alive and well within the workplace and must be eradicated.
Recently, Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue Edward Enninful had tweeted that he was 'racially profiled' by a security guard when entering the building that houses the magazine – a building that is owned by British Vogue's parent company, Condé Nast.
Whilst Condé Nast have acted promptly and, reportedly, the incident is being investigated and the security guard, who had reportedly taken up the role through a third-party agency and not directly through Condé Nast, has been dismissed.
Stories like this show us that despite the enactment of the Race Relations Act in 1968, being the first piece of legislation in England and Wales to address race discrimination, and the later (and better known) enactment of the Equality Act 2010, discrimination in the workplace has not yet completely disappeared. As Mr Enninful said in his tweet "Just because our timelines and weekends are returning to normal, we cannot let the world return to how it was. Change needs to happen now."
What can companies do to avoid discrimination in the workplace
Undoubtedly, this is a big and scary topic for many businesses. No company allows discrimination of any kind in the work environment and certainly not publicly so. However, companies must consider whether they are doing enough to discourage discrimination altogether, because not actively encouraging it is not enough.
There are a few things that businesses can consider:
· Who are we hiring? – this does not only mean whether the workforce is diverse (statistics show that only 1.5% of senior leadership roles are currently taken up by black employees). It is also important to consider the characters of the employees that are taken on board and actively encouraging an inclusive environment and noticing the behaviour of those around;
· Who are we promoting? – this would be hard, but businesses have to consider whether the right people are being promoted not just for their technical skills but also for their leadership abilities both formally and informally. If an employee is given the opportunity to manage colleagues, would they then promote the ethos of inclusivity that the business is seeking to cultivate?
· How does our office environment treat people? – what is being tolerated in the workplace and what is the general consensus and morale? Those are very important and management and HR should always have a finger on the pulse to be able to notice these things and be able to nip any issues in the bud, as soon as the wind changes slightly.
In short – Be ahead of the game
There is no doubt that this is not an issue that is exclusive for race discrimination, especially as the Equality Act does seek to protect other characteristics such as disability, maternity, sex and age. All of those characteristics are important and must be protected and the idea of inclusivity translates across the board.
We strongly recommend that companies ensure that they have sufficiently clear policies on diversity and equality in the workplace and that those are adhered to and properly implemented. We are happy to advise on those and assist in their drafting and preparation too. At the same time, it is also important to have sufficiently clear procedures in place for dealing with any issues of discrimination and misconduct within the business to eliminate any issues as soon as they arise.
Is your business doing all it can to eradicate discrimination in the workplace?
Our team is here to offer guidance and advice.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.