Sexual harassment continues to make the news in the UK and the US with so many scandals emerging. The cost to an employer for failing to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace can be unlimited. Sexual harassment claims can be lodged in an employment tribunal and if the claimant wins the compensation can potentially be unlimited. In this blog there are hints and tips how to deal with sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is very serious and organisations can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. In accordance with the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to harass an employee because of their sex. Harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. It can also include making offensive remarks about a person’s sex. Victim and harasser can be either a man or a woman. The victim and the harasser can be the same sex. Harassment can create a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive work environment.
Verbal signs of sexual harassment include:
- comments about appearance, body or clothes
- indecent remarks
- questions or comments about sex life
- staring at someone’s body
- displaying sexually explicit material eg calendars, pin ups
- physically touching
- sexual assault
Racism in football has long been making the headlines. The most recent case is Nicolas Anelka a West Brom player who made the controversial quenelle gesture after scoring a goal against West Ham. The quenelle gesture is an anti semetic sign and it is said Anelka was supporting Dieudonné M’bala M’bala an anti Zionist French comedian who has recently been in the media for his comments. Anelka has been banned by the Football Association. Zoopla, a sponsor of West Brom has now withdrawn its support. Racism has long been inherent in football, but there are lessons we should learn.
At the beginning of the twentieth century Walter Tull was the first black man to play for Tottenham Hotspur. It is believed that his glittering career was cut short by racism; he was dropped from the first team then sold to Northampton Town.
In 1914 Tull enlisted in the Footballers Battalion (Middlesex Regiment). He was promoted three times after leading a raid across enemy lines. He was then recommended for a Military Cross for outstanding bravery and leadership, however, he never received this. His family were informed that he had been recommended by two fellow officers who broke the rules to do so. According to the manual of Military Law infantry officers had to be of pure European descent. Tull was killed in action in the Somme in 1918. In 1999 Northampton Town unveiled a memorial in his honour. Hopes are growing that finally he will be recognised for the sacrifice he made. A play about his life is being unveiled at a theatre in Bolton.
In December 2012 Liverpool’s Suarez was given an eight match ban and a £40,000 fine after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Evra. In July ex-England captain John Terry was in a high profile racism case, but he was cleared of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. There is a long way to go to reduce racism in football. Many management and boardroom positions are all white and all male, there is no diversity. There is evidence to show that homophobia is a bigger problem than discrimination.
Racial discrimination is damaging to all organisations, not just the football industry. It occurs when a person is treated less favourably because of their race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin. The Equality Act makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against other employees because of these characteristics.
ACAS describes four areas of discrimination:
- direct discrimination: treating someone less favourably because of their actual or perceived race, or because of the race of someone with whom they associate
- indirect discrimination: can occur where there is a policy, practice or procedure which applies to all workers, but particularly disadvantages people of a particular race. An example could be a requirement for all job applicants to have GCSE Maths and English: people educated in countries which don’t have GCSEs would be discriminated against if equivalent qualifications were not accepted.
- harassment: when unwanted conduct related to race has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual
- victimisation: unfair treatment of an employee who has made or supported a complaint about racial discrimination.
Only one fifth of small businesses are ready for Real Time Information (RTI); an initiative is to be introduced by HMRC from 6 April 2013 for SMEs. Larger organisations will come on board later this year. Worryingly, almost half of small employers have no knowledge of this and only a third are only vaguely aware of the imminent changes. This is of concern, because HMRC will slapping £100 fines on those who do not comply so if is really important to sit up and take notice of what is happening.
With RTI information on pay, income tax and national insurance is submitted to HMRC as the employees are paid, which could be weekly or monthly thereby drip feeding HMRC rather than fill in the annual P35 which will be phased out.
Employers need to ensure their in house software will comply with RTI requirements, however, for those who employ nine or less staff there is free software on the HMRC website. Employers that outsource their payroll need to ensure that the payroll providers understand their responsibilities in this area.
Employers need to ensure that all employee data is correct as this will need to be submitted; if it is not correct the submission to HMRC could be rejected. Employers also need to check they are registered for PAYE online.
The following new information will also need to be submitted to HMRC:
PAYE reference number
PAYE accounts office reference (account number)
Date of birth
Employers will also need to submit:
Information on lower paid, temps and casual staff
Changes to employee working patterns
New starters and leavers
If you are interested in attending some Q&A sessions on real time information being organised in Northampton email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Today, 18 February, is “Drink Wine Day” so cheers!
Some interesting wine facts include:
- It takes two pounds of grapes to make a bottle of wine
- Red wine gets its colour from the grape skin
- White wine gains more colour with age
- Women make better wine tasters than men because they have a better sense of smell
Wine has been drunk for thousands of years and it is recommended that you drink wine on a moderate basis because it can actually be good for you helping reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease. However alcohol abuse can be bad particularly when its effects spill into the workplace.
An employer has a duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 with their employees and needs to be aware of possible alcohol (and drug) abuse in the workplace. It is essential that a policy that covers the use of alcohol (and drugs) is developed and put into place. An employer should protect workers and encourage anyone who is suffering from alcohol abuse to seek help.
Alcohol abuse can contribute to poor productivity as well as poor health. Mistakes can be made and colleagues put at risk. It is important to recognise the signs – attendance issues, attitude and conduct, poor performance dress and hygiene issues.
A policy should ensure that problems are dealt with quickly and give guidance to employees on conducting themselves in relation to alcohol, how problems will be identified and under what circumstances an employee’s drinking will be referred to as a disciplinary rather than a health problem. Managers should be educated in how to help staff who are mis-using alcohol. Accurate written records should be kept of documented meetings that have discussed the issues. Meeting should be confidential and held in a private manner. The employee should be asked about the issues and invited to give an explanation. If they mention a problem with alcohol then it might be a good idea to suggest an occupational health referral or provide access to an employee assistance programme. An action plan needs to be agreed to address the matters with follow up meetings arranged in the diary.
Some employers implement drug and alcohol testing where employees are in control of machinery or drive as part of their job. This is a good defence in case there is an accident. However employers need to think carefully about what they want the screening to do and what they will do with the information gained.
Once again Valentine’s Day is upon us, a day for sweethearts to declare their love for one another and to mark the occasion with a card, flowers and perhaps a meal. A situation that should be applauded you may say, however, it depends on the circumstances of the relationship. When a relationship has been formed in the workplace, there are key things that employers need to be aware of.
When things are going well there can be increased productivity and everything is sweetness and light. However workplace relationships can lead to competition, distraction and office gossip. According to research four in ten employers have experienced problems with workplace relationships. Issues that can arise include complaints of favoritism, decreased morale, bullying if a relationship has ended, sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and constructive dismissal all of which could have a negative impact in the workplace.
It is difficult to have an outright ban on relationships, which would be impossible to manage but there should be clear guidelines with regard to conduct. Consideration should be given to and guidance provided on relationships between supervisors and those they manage, employees and clients and possibly between team members. The circumstances under which relationships should be disclosed should be included – after a first date, after several months or if the employees move in together. The policy should apply to all members of staff regardless of seniority, marital status or sexual orientation. Disciplinary sanctions may need to be incorporated into a workplace relationship policy that could include a verbal warning, a transfer or even possibly dismissal depending on any possible misconduct circumstances. Furthermore a robust harassment procedure should be in place.
When drawing up procedures, it might be a good idea to consult with employees to ensure that they are acceptable. After implementation the procedures should then be well communicated and training for managers provided.
In the US there is a “love contract” which is an agreement between the employer and the employees which states that their relationship is concensual and free from coercion, intimidation and harassment and that employees agree not to enter into any conduct that could be harassing, unprofessional or inappropriate. This concept has come to the UK, but it would not prevent an employee from bringing a claim of sex discrimination due to the Equality Act 2010. However a love contract could demonstrate an employer has taken all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination or harassment.
Workplace romance should not be discouraged, but employers should take action to minimise their risks.
In an effort to turnaround what has happened at the Mid-Staffordshire hospital it has been announced that there is to be a change in culture within the organisation. Apparently the situation arose because bosses were concentrating more on cost-saving than ensuring compassionate care to patients. Customer care should be at the centre of the new culture, it’s a serious thing to get right, but making the change is no mean feat and is a strategy that needs to be carried out with a variety of coordinated actions. The planned shift in recruitment focus that was announced is important, but there needs to be joined up thinking in all areas to make things work. There has to be real commitment by everyone not just management speak. The Chief Executive has already apologised for the scandal promising to put things right but words are cheap and it is demonstrable actions that will count in the long run.
It has recently been reported that an African born man is taking Virgin airlines to an employment tribunal for racial discrimination. He alleges that he submitted his detailed CV to Virgin that contained his African name and did not get through the first stage of the recruitment process. However when he then resubmitted his less detailed CV substituting his name for and English sounding one he was invited for an interview.
The recruitment process can be fraught with opportunities for discrimination so it is important for employers to examine each stage to minimise the risks.
Before commencing recruitment it is really important to draw up a job description which contains a list of all the required duties together with a person specification that contains skills, experience and qualifications. This is an essential document and forms the basis of the recruitment process going forward.
When creating a job advert it is important to focus on the key skills and experience you are looking for to successfully undertake the job. It is a good idea to include in the advert a brief list of the job duties along with the desired skills all taken from the job description. This will help candidates to de-select if they feel the job is not right for them and will save an employer time and money.
Once a good selection of CVs or application forms have been submitted you can then commence the shortlisting process. When using an application form it might be a good idea to have the name and contact details on a removable sheet so that the shortlisters only concentrate on essential job related skills. Using a shortlisting grid can aid the process and prevent discrimination. If using CVs the same process can be used, but ideally the names of the applicants should be covered up.
Following shortlisting there should be a small list of candidates to call to interview. The interviewing panel should plan the interview process which could include an interview schedule of what information will be given to the candidates during their interviews and questions drawn up that link to establishing whether they have the right skills and experience to do the job. By focusing on teasing out this information there is less likelihood of discriminatory questions being asked. The interviewers should use the same process and questions with all the candidates and use a scoring sheet to score each one.
At the end of the interviewing process the panel need to decide on the successful candidate using the scores in order to make a job offer.
By sticking to this structured process it is less likely that the recruitment process will lead to claims of discrimination in an employment tribunal.