Although you might know encouraging a more equal, diverse and inclusive workforce is what your company needs, knowing the laws, rights and regulations you need to adhere to is just as important.

In this guide, we outline some of the essential laws and rules that you need to know about as an employer or employee in a senior position in your company. This will make sure you can develop a truly inclusive company culture. Some companies overlook this step which often leads to tokenism and undermines any efforts made to encourage trust and equality. 

However, with this handy guidance you don’t need to worry: 

Equality Act 2010

The UK government compiled a number of different laws related to diversity and discrimination into one act, the Equality Act 2010. If you really want to understand the relevant employment laws, you should get to grips with this piece of legislation. 

Within it, it outlines all of the protected characteristics, as well as what classes as discrimination against those characteristics.  

Direct Discrimination

Direct discrimination is the easiest to spot and remove out of all the different types of discrimination. It involves someone making a remark, decision or arrangement that directly impacts someone due to their identity or belonging to a certain protected group.  

An example of direct discrimination is of refusing a promotion to a more qualified candidate due to them being a woman.  

Indirect Discrimination

Indirect discrimination is slightly more difficult to identify and is a reason why you need to encourage an open and inclusive company culture where people are able to discuss potential discrimination. By definition, indirect discrimination is where there is a rule or arrangement that seems to apply to everyone on an equal footing, but actually disadvantages a certain identity or group. 

An example of indirect discrimination is where training is only offered to those who are new to the company. This would be seen as age discrimination as it is less likely that a new hire is an older worker.  

Potential Fines for Employment Discrimination

As outlined in the Equality Act 2010, a company can be fined for discriminating against one of their employees or candidates to an advertised position. There is no legal limit to the amount of potential compensation a company would have to give should they lose the case. 

However, the average award for discrimination cases in the UK is £20,000.  

Positive Action

There are laws pertaining to the use of positive action, sometimes known as positive discrimination, although the latter term is no longer used formally. This refers to where someone is given a promotion or is hired as a result of their identity or for belonging to a certain social group, including those protected characteristics.  

The Equality Act 2010 outlines that you can only use ‘positive action’ when you cannot already differentiate between two candidates. This means that it would be discrimination if you chose a worse candidate because of their identity or belonging to a certain social group, even if that identity or group was a protected characteristic.  

As such, the use of positive action in the UK is known as a ‘tie breaker’, in which you can hire for diversity purposes only on the basis of there being no other factors that make either candidate more competent than the other.  

Flexible Work

An important thing to note is that you cannot reduce an employee’s pay, pension or general employee rights in return for granting them flexible work.  

Read more about flexible working and its benefits on our sister website Refreshing a Career.