Internal grievance procedures drive employees to tribunal over sexual orientation and religion belief discrimination

Employees who have tried to resolve disputes about discrimination under new equality regulations have ended up facing demotion, dismissal, mental health problems and even contemplated suicide, research has found.

In the first study of the impact of the employment equality regulations on sexual orientation and religion or belief, which were introduced in 2003, research carried out by the Institute for Employment Studies for the conciliation service Acas, suggests that internal workplace grievance procedures are flawed and do not provide a way to resolve these issues.

This encourages more people to resort to an employment tribunal, the research suggests.

Analysis by Acas shows that between January 2004 and September 2006, 470 individuals brought tribunal claims where the main allegation concerned discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and there were 461 cases where discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief was the main claim.

The claimants regarded following internal grievance procedures to resolve disputes as futile.

The involvement of unsuitable managers who, in a number of cases, were felt to have been complicit or active in the original discrimination experience was also an issue.

Author of the report, Ann Denvir, said: “One strong theme to emerge from both sets of claimants was the tendency of their employers to respond to their complaints by seeing them as the problem, rather than the victims of unfair treatment.”

Justice, rather than financial compensation, was the main motivation for filing \a tribunal claim, she added.

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