Category Archives: equal opportunities

Hearing Loss – Issues for the Workplace

Hearing loss - issues for the workplace

“Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom /”.

Many disabilities can be hidden and this is very true for individuals with hearing loss.  My elderly father is about to be fitted with two hearing aids and I know several people both young and old who are deaf or now have hearing problems. To me it seems therefore that deafness is common and hearing loss raises issues for the workplace.

Those of us who do not have hearing problems take our hearing for granted.  However, according to Action On Hearing Loss ( one in six of us have a hearing problem which means 10 million people in the UK; this figure is rising.  Many people take ten years to deal with their hearing loss and despite two million people having hearing aids only 1.4 million actually use them regularly whilst a further four million could do with using them. Men are more likely to suffer from hearing problems compared to women.

Hearing loss can take many forms.

This can mean profound deafness, but may also be used to describe a less severe hearing loss. Deaf people may use British Sign Language (BSL), Sign Supported English (SSE), speech-to-text, lip reading, or a combination of these. Hearing aids may be of little benefit to someone who is profoundly deaf. Deaf’ (with a capital letter) usually refers to deaf people who use BBSL as their first or preferred means of communication and who consider themselves part of the Deaf community. Sign language however is as diverse as language itself and there are lots of different sign languages across the world.  In the UK the Deaf community sees itself as a linguistic minority rather than a group of people with a disability.

For companies that use publicity materials to be more inclusive, the term “deaf” (note the lower case ‘d’) should be used as this can refer to people who are Deaf, deafened or severely hard of hearing.

This is used to describe people who were born hearing and became severely or profoundly deaf as adults, often suddenly. Deafened people usually have good English skills and may use speech-to-text reporters, lipspeakers or electronic notetakers to aid communication. Many deafened people have cochlear implants – small, complex electronic devices that help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.  This can help them cope with lip reading which an often present many problems as many words have the same lip shapes.

Hard of hearing
This term refers to anyone with a mild to severe loss. It is usually used to describe people who have lost their hearing gradually as they have become older. Some hard of hearing people wear hearing aids and find lip reading helpful in certain situations. They may also find sound enhancement systems beneficial, such as loops and infra red.

A recent BBC programme, Inside Out East (, highlighted how a simple visit to the shops  can be a huge struggle for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Although the technology exisits to help such individuals the programme found that only one in six retail outlets are actively using hearing loops which allow people with hearing problems to take part in a conversation and convey their needs.  The programme shockingly exposed Next and John Lewis as poorly performing yet high profile retail outlets and compared this against Sainsbury’s who ensure that hearing loops are used because they see the benefits to their customers.

The Equality Act 2010 provides for reasonable adjustments to be made and access to services and products should be readily available otherwise discrimination is taking place.

A total of 3.7 million people are of working age have hearing difficulties with 40% who are aged over 50 which has implications for employers.To avoid discrimination employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments by:

  • changing a provision, criterion or practice (ie the way things are done)
  • adjusting physical features – such as the layout of an office or room
  • providing equipment such as an induction loop or textphone.

Employers should always check job descriptions to ensure there are no barriers to those with hearing problems; allowing an individual to use purely email for communication rather than communicating by phone for example. Then at interview employers should ask what reasonable adjustments the individual requires.  Whilst not all requirements may be possible due to financial constraints, the employer should strive wherever possible to meet any needs.

Racism in Football – Lessons We Should Learn

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.
Employers should have an equal opportunities policy in place that is well communicated to the workforce.  Training should be provided for employees and managers so everyone knows how it operates.
Racism has its roots in the difference between skin colour, yet what everyone needs to realise is that there is an elegant theory that we are all descended out of Africa and we all used to be black.  Our skins became white overtime because we only need a few minutes to sunshine to manufacture sufficient vitamin D whereas black people need one hour in the sun.  This is evidence of natural selection which flies in the face of the human race judging everyone’s differences .

The Stained Glass Ceiling – What About Diversity?

The Church of England  has just voted against women bishops and it will be another five years before a vote can take place again. 

Equal opportunities legislation has ruled in the UK for over forty years, but apparently the internal workings of the Church of England remains untouched by this.  However the government has said it will not step in and apply equalities legislation which allows it to disbar women from the episcopate.  If the immunity was removed women could sue the Church of England for discrimination. At the moment there is no intention do so.  As it is the Church now appears out of date and out of touch.

The debate has been going on for decades. One of the major sticking points is that women bishops will require to be obeyed not just tolerated and that is seems is too much for those who just can not accept that.  Apparently the draft legislation did not provide fairness to those who do not wish to see women bishops.  Women priests were introduced twenty years ago but today the talk is of the stained glass ceiling. 
To a certain extent the decision to not allow women to climb the career ladder within the Church is reflected in the European business community where the situation with women at the top is pretty dire.  Therefore the EU has plans to allow 40% of the top jobs to be given to women. Currently men dominate company boards and board chairs are 96.8% men.  However, it will take a long time to achieve such progress within the Church of England. 

For all organisations to benefit from diversity women have to be allowed to achieve their potential in all walks of life.