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Sex discrimination continues to cost employers dearly

Recent legal activity points to the likelihood that sex discrimination claims could leave employers facing increasingly hefty fines. Article from Empire HR.

Steve Cook, CEO Empire HR, which has offices in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Inverness said that the high volume of employment tribunal awards for sex discrimination in January prove that illegal practices in the workplace continue to have a major impact on employers. In the UK in 2016, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone because of age, sex, race, religion or disability, and at work, in education, as a consumer and when using public services, the Equality Act 2010 protects us against discrimination.

However, workplace discrimination still leads to multi-million pound tribunal payouts, with sex discrimination topping the bill. Despite the reduction in the number of employment tribunals following the introduction of fees, sex discrimination remains a significant problem for UK businesses. In the year 2014/15, over half of all tribunal cases involved sex discrimination, which includes harassment and victimisation. Sex discrimination claims can bring uncapped awards and there is no minimum service requirement, which can end up costing employers dearly.

In 2014/2015 the median tribunal award for sex discrimination was £13,500, compared with £8,656 for disability discrimination and £1,080 for religious discrimination. The first month of 2016 saw significant sums being awarded due to unfair treatment in the workplace. A pregnant live-in barmaid in England was asked to leave by bosses before she became ‘fat and wobbly’. An employment tribunal subsequently awarded her £17,000. 

And Russian banker Svetlana Lokhova was awarded £3m from an employment tribunal in January, after a ‘vicious’ campaign of sexual harassment and bullying by male colleagues. Offensive emails were shared in court and Ms Lokhova, who faced multi-million pound legal fees during her three year battle, is now separately suing colleagues who accused her of drug taking.

Sex discrimination is avoidable, says Steve Cook: “Firstly, an employer must have discrimination and harassment policies in place that address sex discrimination including sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and family responsibility discrimination. Employment polices should be applied in a gender-neutral manner – a male worker has as much right and need to attend to a sick child as a mother. Promotion and training should be offered fairly and equally to men and women and employment decisions should never be made on the basis of gender.”  

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