Diversity and Inclusion

by Gamiel Yafai

When the culture ignores discrimination

The cost of ignoring issues of diversity and inclusion within an organisation is that discrimination can insidiously become a part of the culture. In time, this will often result not only in lost business opportunities and wasted talent, but in incidents that may well end up in tribunal.

Harassment

This is defined as behaviour that is unwanted, unwelcomed and unreciprocated by the recipient and has the effect of making that person uncomfortable, aggrieved or otherwise humiliated. Such behaviour may be related to a protected characteristic and could be unintentional; it is the impact on the recipient of such behaviour which is the primary concern.

Harassment can be verbal, physical or sexual or a combination of any of these.

Something to consider

You notice at the team meetings that a female employee always chooses to sit the furthest away from a particular male colleague and always tries to avoid meetings where she knows that he will be present.

You ask her if there is a problem and she tells you that he is always looking at her in a funny way but she does not want to cause any trouble. You tell her that it is ok and that she can talk to you about anything.

She therefore tells you about a time when she was at the photocopier and whilst photocopying he came and brushed his genitals against her when passing her in the corridor where the photocopier was.

Would this constitute harassment, and what would you do about it?

The circumstances would strongly suggest this is a case of sexual harassment and physical harassment because of the way he looks at her. You would need to instigate a fact find and a full investigation. (For more, see Conflict Resolution.)

Bullying

This is systematic and often persistent personal criticism, belittlement and other behaviour that undermines a person or persons. This can often lead to loss of self-confidence and increasing self-doubt by the recipient of such behaviour, which can affect them in the workplace and in their personal life. Bullying is often intentional and is frequently defended as a ‘strong management style’.

Something to think about

You storm out of your office and shout across an open plan floor at a worker telling him to get his ‘useless butt’ over here. The whole of the office overhears you telling them to go away and not to come back until they have completed the report. If he can find time to pray on Fridays then he can find time to complete this report.

Could this be classed as bullying on religious grounds?

There is little doubt that this would be deemed as bullying, because the recipient was made to feel embarrassed, humiliated and belittled. Furthermore this was done in the presence of other colleagues and referred to the worker’s religious observance.

Victimisation

This is where a person or persons have been treated less favourably because they have or you think they have complained or raised a grievance against you or others in your organisation. Protection also extends to where a person or persons have been treated less favourably because they supported someone who has similarly complained or raised a grievance.

Something to consider

You are on a recruitment panel for a promotion and there are three shortlisted candidates. You notice that one of the candidates is being treated less favourably by a member of the panel. When you review the applicants, you become aware that candidate had made a complaint again this panel member on the grounds of race. This applicant was subsequently not selected for the promotion. Where do you think you stand at law?

Even if the intent was not to victimise and the decision to select a more suitable candidate was objectively justified, the final decision was then prejudiced by the fact that the other panel member had previously been involved in an issue with this applicant.

From this, the candidate could reasonably assume that they were being victimised for past complaint.

Top tip

In an interview, always restrict your questions to matters pertinent to an applicant’s ability to perform the role in question.