Winning business on the golf course carries risk of tribunal

The age-old commercial tradition of schmoozing clients on the golf course
could land companies in tribunal following new amendments to discrimination
laws, warns a leading employment adviser.

The Sex Discrimination (Indirect Discrimination and Burden of Proof)
Regulations 2001, which come into effect on 12 October, have widened the scope
of indirect discrimination under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 to include not
just strict terms and conditions of employment but also employers’
"provisions, criteria and practices".

The much wider definition could outlaw any apparently neutral practices that
favour men more than women, such as wooing clients over a game of golf, said
Joanna Blackburn of law firm Mishcon de Reya.

"This is not a frivolous proposition. Statistically, less women than
men play golf. If these types of marketing activities give employees a chance
to meet and win business from clients, which leads to the employee being
perceived as more valuable, the possible discriminatory consequences are clear.

"The woman could find her pay or promotion chances are suppressed. It
could end in her losing her job in circumstances where the employer is required
to make redundancies."

Blackburn urged HR to audit its organisations for practices or policies that
could have a disproportionate effect on one sex, and to implement awareness
training for managers.

"Where many companies still fall down in employment tribunals is in
being unable to show that they have put otherwise good equal opportunities
policies into practice," she says.

"A tribunal is far less likely to be impressed by a manager with no
real understanding of the discrimination laws than one who has been properly

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