The new Equality Bill passed is a landmark for workplace history – providing opportunities and challenges, says a leading diversity consultant.
“The new law was widely expected to be safe,” says Vernal Scott, lead diversity consultant at Marshall ACM. “What it does, in essence, is harmonise equality laws into one and makes a few various extensions.
“There are few surprises for public or private sector organisations, but plenty of work ahead to prepare effectively.”
One of the key differences of the new law is that an employee can claim dual discrimination. Previously, where six ‘strands’ of equality were discussed, these are now ‘characteristics’. “The Bill reflects the truth of being a human and says we might have more than one diversity characteristic. For instance, you might be a disabled woman or a gay black. We are not one-dimensional.”
What’s more, employment tribunals will have greater power to instruct organisations about the actions they should take in order not to repeat the conduct. The tribunal can also reflect on previous details if a case is brought against the same employer again. Previously, after a tribunal, everyone went their own way and the case was closed.
Scott says, “Both public and private sector organisations would be wise not to look at this Bill as a potential threat, but as an opportunity to attract the best people. Those who recognise that existing and new customers will come from these diverse groups, will optimise their organisation and provide service excellence for everyone in their business community.
“It’ll be to an organisation’s advantage if it does proactively work towards this Bill. Far beyond reducing the chance of expensive legal action, it’s an opportunity for organisations to renew their efforts to clarify equality objectives, as well as involve staff and service users. It’s a commitment to best practice that will pay dividends.”