Employers ignoring need for equal opportunities training

Most employers facing a discrimination claim would be unable to persuade an
employment tribunal that they had done enough to prevent the alleged
discrimination.

This is the conclusion of a survey of more 1,280 employers and advisers by
law firm Fox Williams, which finds that most employers are relying on the ‘fig
leaf’ of having a written equal opportunities policy, while providing little or
no equal opportunities training for staff – leaving themselves highly
vulnerable to discrimination claims.

The survey reveals that while all the respondents had a written equal
opportunities statement or policy, only 15 per cent provided equal
opportunities training to all staff, and just 25 per cent provided equal opportunities
training for managers.

Helen Monson, employment specialist at Fox Williams, said: "Employers
are leaving themselves unnecessarily exposed, particularly when it comes to
recruitment. An employer facing a discrimination claim has to show that it took
reasonably practicable steps to prevent the alleged discrimination.

"Unless it can show that it has provided equal opportunities training –
at management level at least – its chances of successfully defending a
discrimination claim are very limited."

Monson said the study shows that most employers are simply ignoring the
requirement to provide equal opportunities training for managers, which is
included in sex, race and disability discrimination codes.

None of the respondents reported any improvements in recruitment or
retention due to having an equal opportunities policy, while just 12.5 per cent
noticed any change in reputation.

"We were surprised that respondents felt there had been no improvement
in recruitment and retention rates or in their external and internal reputation
as a result of having a policy or statement," Monson added. "This is
perhaps because, without training, an equal opportunities policy is largely
ineffective."

By Ross Wigham

www.hrlaw.co.uk

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