Many employers do not understand equality and diversity laws

Myths and misconceptions still surround equality and diversity in the workplace, a discussion paper suggests.

The policy paper published by conciliation service Acas is based on the findings of its frontline staff who have uncovered areas of misunderstanding for both employers and employees.

Disability is an area employers fear and struggle to understand. Common misconceptions include the belief that you cannot sack a disabled person or that you can automatically sack someone if they have been on sick leave for a certain length of time.

Employers also lack detailed knowledge of their responsibilities towards pregnant women and there is growing anecdotal evidence of employers being unwilling to recruit women of childbearing age.

Employers find particularly difficult to confront race discrimination, and the most common misconception about age regulations is that they apply only to older workers.

Acas suggests that the best way of tackling the barriers is to start by demystifying equality and diversity, providing support for employers to change the attitudes and behaviour of staff and more training for managers.

Acas chief executive John Taylor said: “Our staff work with thousands of employers and employees each year in a neutral, impartial environment, so we see the real issues and behaviours in the workplace at ground level.

“It seems that although there has been improvement in understanding what equality and diversity means in general there are still vast misconceptions about the detail, especially among small employers.”

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