Andy Gray sacking: what employers and business owners can learn

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
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