HARASSMENT AND BULLYING
These are increasingly common problems. They can be a symptom of an unhealthy culture or just a result of bad behaviour by individual employees.
The potential liabilities for a new business that can arise when these problems go unchecked or are not taken seriously can be extremely large relative to the size of a small business, and the disruption caused can be significant.
Key tips in this area are as follows: insist on respectful interaction between staff do not tolerate a high level of innuendo in office interactions
be wary of "banter": this is often a euphemism for unpleasant conduct that could be harassment or bullying
do not tolerate inappropriate messaging e.g. social messaging between employees at work, or using work email accounts or phone numbers for social purposes
if you have concerns, act on them immediately take complaints seriously and respond to them.
characteristic e.g. not hiring a candidate because of their race.
Indirect discrimination occurs when a measure you take has the effect of disadvantaging those with a certain protected characteristic e.g. banning part-time working may disadvantage women as they tend to have greater childcare responsibilities than men.
Disability discrimination is a particularly complex area for small businesses, in terms of understanding disabilities, making reasonable adjustments and avoiding discrimination generally.
As an employer, you will be legally liable for the discriminatory acts by your employees or agents, as well as your own acts.
Key discrimination risk areas for small businesses are: job interviews and candidate selection maternity issues workplace culture the handling of disciplinary procedures and grievances.
Discrimination law in the UK is far-reaching. It is unlawful to discriminate against an employee, worker, self-employed contractor, or job applicant on any of the following grounds:
race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin sex (this includes sexual harassment) marriage or civil partnership disability religion or belief sexual orientation pregnancy and maternity gender reassignment age.
Direct discrimination occurs where an individual is treated less favourably because of a protected
Wedlake Bell’s Key Knowledge Guide to Employment Law for New Businesses 7
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