Andy Gray sacking: what employers and business owners can learn
First and foremost, familiarise yourself with the
rules. They were updated late last year, so it's worth
refreshing your knowledge. Our
guide to The Equality Act 2010 is a great starting point, and
you can check the government's info for further details.
As a basic but, as we have seen, easy-to-overlook rule of
thumb, just avoid all sexism at all costs - and,
for that matter, racism, ageism and more or less all the -isms.
(Nb: prisms are okay.)
Make sure all your staff know the rules.
Employers and business owners can be held legally liable if someone
offends someone else on their watch, and the legal description of
discrimination now covers someone taking offence at a remark they
overhear even if it's not directed at them. The Andy Gray fiasco is
an example of this expanded definition of discrimination: while in
most of the clips we've seen he didn't make sexist remarks to
anyone's face, his 'banter' with (male) colleagues was offensive to
those around him. Sky could be held responsible for that, had it
not sacked him. Ensuring all the team know what is and is not
acceptable behaviour and language helps cover you.
On that note, make it easy for staff to understand
legislation. Chucking the full 251-page Equality Act at them is never going
to work, unless you happen to be a corporate law firm, but an
easy-to-read summary like our
guide to The Equality Act or even a half-day workshop on
discrimination will mean they stand a better chance of absorbing
and understanding the rules.
Have regular sit-downs with all staff,
one-on-one, in which you discuss whether they feel discriminated
against in any way. Creating a culture where staff confide in you
will help you nip any problems in the bud before they mushroom into
- in the worst case scenario - costly and reputation-damaging
employment tribunals for you.
If one of your members of staff is being
discriminatory but no one's lodging a complaint about it,
think carefully about the best course of action. It might be that a
quiet word will resolve the problem - very often people are
ignorant to the offensiveness of their jokes or verbal slips.
People in their twenties, for example, have a worrying propensity
to casually describe something as 'gay' (as a substitute for a
derogatory adjective), while those in elder generations are still
prone to idioms that have lurked around since the 60s like bad
smells, such as 'black as the ace of spades'. Flagging such
language as unacceptable will help you avoid any issues.
If discrimination is deeper-rooted than mere
linguistic slips, you might need to issue a formal written warning
or even take steps towards dismissing that employee. Is the
livelihood of your business really worth the risk of employing
someone who could get you heavily sued or taken to a tribunal? Read
our employment law and HR advice
sections for more help.
As a side note, be highly tuned to the pitfalls of
making people redundant, that prickliest of processes for
staff and employers. Making redundant pregnant women, or anyone who
could accuse you of sexual, gender, age or racial discrimination
could leave you vulnerable to an employment tribunal. Read our
feature on getting redundancy right and
our business advice on HR for more info.
Full details can be found