On 1 October, the majority of the Equality Act 2010 came into force. This replaced and consolidated the law on discrimination, making discrimination law more easily accessible to employees.
The Act lists 9 ‘protected characteristics’: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation and provides protection against numerous forms of discrimination such as harassment, victimisation and direct discrimination.
Discrimination claims are making headlines more frequently such as the case of Sky Sports Presenter, Andy Gray, who was sacked for offensive behaviour and sexist remarks and the success age discrimination claims brought by Miriam O’Reilly’s against the BBC.
The impact of these cases is that there is a greater awareness of discrimination. For this reason it is essential that businesses to have good understanding of discrimination law and put in place mechanism to avoid discrimination in the work place.
It is important to bear in mind that discrimination claims can be brought not only by employees or workers during and after employment. Prior to appointment, prospective employees can claim they have been subjected to discrimination during the recruitment selection process, particular by the questions asked during interviews.
Employers must therefore, tread carefully when conducting interviews because there is a fine line between asking questions to ascertain a candidate’s suitability for a job, and asking questions which are discriminatory.
Employers should stick to questions relevant to the job when interviewing potential candidates. Questions relating to any of the protected characteristics should be avoided unless the question is relevant to the role.
For example, questions such as ‘do you have or want to have children?’, ‘what religion do you practice?’, ‘when do you plan to retire?’ and ‘what country are you from?’ would be inappropriate and would have no relevance to the skills relating to any job.
Examples of questions that you can ask include:’ what are your future career goals?’, ‘can you describe a situation where you can demonstrate leadership skills?’, ‘how would you react in a crisis at work?’, and ‘can you tell me about a time when you have successfully managed a team? These questions are centred on finding out the applicant’s suitability for the role applied for.
Although these points may seem obvious, one thoughtless question can result in discrimination claim which can have damaging consequences. It is important therefore that businesses have a good awareness of the wide scope of discrimination law.
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