Peninsula Employment Law Director Alan Price comments on how can employers ensure there is no religious discrimination in the workplace?
A test carried out by the BBC has found that a job seeker with an English name was offered triple the number of interviews than an identical applicant with a Muslim name. The test found that a CV with the name Adam gained 12 interviews from 100 job opportunities whilst a CV with the name Mohamed was only offered four. This test highlights the issue of religious discrimination in the workplace; an unlawful act which appears to still be occurring against religious groups including Muslims. Employers need to be acting proactively and positively to ensure this is not taking place in their business.
The recruitment process is often an unexpected area where discrimination happens, however, the Equality Act 2010 provides equal protection for those applying for employment as those already employed. It is vital that employers recognise this and are not making any discriminatory decisions during recruitment. As this test shows, names supplied on application forms should not be used to filter applicants based on how English the name sounds or the perceived religion of the person. All recruitment decisions should be based on the needs of the job role or the criteria set out in the person specification and those carrying out the process should be trained on correctly carrying this out. A simple way of removing the potential for any religious discrimination based on names is to carry out ‘name-blind’ recruitment; where the name is simply removed. This allows those making the decision to focus solely on the skills, qualifications and experience outlined in the application.
Discrimination can occur in the workplace without employers being aware of this, however, this is no excuse. Employers need to ensure they are adequately training staff on what is and isn’t acceptable, from recruitment decisions to everyday conversations to dismissal procedures. Carrying out diversity and equality training will also allow members of staff to understand the qualities and advantages of having a diverse workforce. Having an effective equality policy is also useful as a way of communicating the correct standards of behaviour to all members of staff. However, it is important this isn’t just tucked away in a handbook and everyone has located and read the policy, including any updated versions.
It is important that, regardless of how much time and training is put in to making sure racial discrimination does not occur, when discrimination does happen this is tackled immediately and appropriately. Having a proactive culture will reduce the likelihood of discrimination happening because those suffering feel able to come forward about their experience and those who carry this out are aware that this will be acted on. Any complaints of racial discrimination need to be handled properly and in a timely manner with formal disciplinary sanctions being imposed against the perpetrators as reasonable in the circumstances.