Hidden Discrimination: One in Five Employees in Britain Still Affected and Public Sector Worst Affected

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Almost 20% of people have experienced discrimination of some type, whether it be a one off occurrence or an ongoing issue, according to new research carried out by Essex and London law firm Fisher Jones Greenwood.

Discrimination types
In a survey of 1,600 people, it was found that age and gender were the most prevalent types of discrimination at 27% and 23% respectively, with women experiencing the greater percentage of gender discrimination at 37% as opposed to 12% for men. Race/nationality and physical appearance (15% each) were the second most prevalent types of discrimination, followed by social class (12%) and disability/illness (11%). Least prevalent was sexual orientation at 6%.

Industries affected
Surprisingly, the survey found that the Public Sector is the working environment in which most discrimination has occurred with 16% reporting some form of discrimination, whereas Banking & Finance reported only 8%, much lower than might be expected. Other industries where discrimination is most prevalent are:

Teaching & Education (12%)
Retail & Sales (11%)
Health & Social Care (10%)
Hospitality & Travel (9%)

Around a third of discrimination cases are ‘hidden’ as few people report it or take the issue to management. However employers should be aware that despite this hidden nature of discrimination, just over 1 in ten (11%) of those discriminated against sought legal advice or went on to a tribunal – both potentially costly outcomes for the organisation involved. In two thirds of cases, employees did report the discrimination to senior staff, HR departments or sought advice from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (or similar). Therefore Fisher Jones Greenwood believes that employers also need to ensure that they have robust policies in place to ensure that their organisation effectively deal with these cases as and when they arise.

Fisher Jones Greenwood recommends companies follow a five step procedure to ensure that they are prepared should an employee feel that they have been discriminated against:

  1. Ensure that there are suitable policies in place which inform employees of the appropriate channels for raising issues or concerns.
  2. Make these easily accessible; include them in the employee handbook and within any induction material; ensure that employees have read relevant documents and are aware of where information can be found at a later date.
  3. Ensure staff are provided with appropriate equal opportunities training and that the organisation keeps records of the training undertaken by each employee.
  4. Make employees aware that discriminatory behaviour of any form is treated very seriously and if proven, will result in disciplinary action being taken.
  5. Keep comprehensive records of any grievance and/or disciplinary meetings and ensure that those staff conducting such procedures both understand and properly implement the employer’s policies.

Following this process should ensure that there is a clear, thought out procedure which will protect both employers and employees. Specifically for employers concerned about discrimination, MyFJG includes legal templates and guidelines for the Grievance Procedure and Dispute Resolution, with key documents for employees and staff that employers can complete themselves throughout the complaint process to ensure adherence to procedures.

For more survey results, please see http://www.fjg.co.uk/site/blog/employment_blog/survey

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