Now I know that the title sounds a little like an academic philosophy argument but it is actually an issue we need to consider.

There have been a number of articles and statements made over the last few weeks that make this an important topic because it reflects on how we define what we mean by discrimination and therefore how we should react to it.

So let’s just look at three of them in relation to employment:

The Budget statement included reference to a moratorium for small business (less than 10 employees) and for new start-ups of any forthcoming domestic regulations and the suspension of dual discrimination and 3rd party harassment. Now I am all in favour of reducing bureaucracy, but I don’t see how discriminating helps. Saying that one business has to comply and others don’t is simply political discrimination…it creates an uneven playing field and reduces the rights of one worker against another based on where they work. And to be honest I am not sure it even does that. However, I am sure the courts will have something to say about which takes precedence, the rights of the individual or a moratorium; let alone the possibility of vicarious liability where one business, not excluded by the moratorium, and who sub-contracts another to provide a service on its behalf, who is excluded, is held to account for the possible discriminatory actions of the sub-contractor.

Then we had the research which showed that the majority of SME employers are put off employing public sector workers because of how they perceive their productivity, skills and even attitude. If discrimination is defined as the treating someone differently because of a general assumption of their abilities or a category to which that person belongs rather than by judging them on individual merit, then that is discrimination. It may be legal as it is not covered by law, but is still discriminatory.

Lastly, we had the Employers Forum on Age study which found that there was a tendency for people to recruit workers who bore similarities to themselves or to others in their company. Again, it may be unconsciously done, but it is discriminatory.

So what do we do? Well it’s important that employers do all that they can to ensure that any form of favouritism or discrimination, not just those covered by legal protection, is challenged so that it does not exclude talented people from the recruitment process to the detriment of business.