Discrimination protection does not necessarily mean that each employee should be treated in exactly the same way. It is about taking into account differences in order to cultivate a positive workplace.
A culture of inclusion and diversity has clear benefits to individual employees, but it also benefits an employer’s business: a diverse range of people within the workforce will bring with them a diverse set of skills, experience, and competencies that can give organisations a competitive edge.
To promote and maintain a culture of inclusion and diversity, businesses should have in place clear policies and procedures, such as an Equal Opportunities Policy, that provide guidance to managers and employees on what is expected of them in terms of behaviours and actions. Such policies should also provide employees with recourse should they feel that the business is falling short of its responsibilities.
Employees must not be treated differently, unfairly or less favourably because of their individual “protected characteristics.” Protected characteristics are:
- sexual orientation;
- gender reassignment;
- marriage; and
The law provides protection from:
- Direct discrimination (being treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic).
- Indirect discrimination (being at a disadvantage because of a seemingly neutral provision, criterion, or practice).
- Victimisation (being at a subjected to a detriment because of a complaint about discrimination or assisting a victim of discrimination i.e. by being a witness for them or a ‘companion’ at meetings).
- Harassment, including sexual harassment (being subjected to unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic, which violates dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment).