Discrimination policies get short shrift from employers

Survey shows only 22 per cent of companies prepared for forthcoming age discrimination legislation

Just 22 per cent of employers have introduced new age discrimination policies, despite the fact that employees will be able to bring claims from December this year, a survey by Pinsents has revealed.

The Equality & Diversity Survey, based on responses from 331 companies, reveals that employers have been lax not only in updating policies for age discrimination, but also for religious belief and sexual orientation. Only 33 per cent of the respondents have updated their policies for religious belief, with a fraction more (39 per cent) making preparations for sexual orientation legislation.

There is no cap on the level of compensation that may be awarded for successful claims, so employers’ lack of action is a worry, said Pinsents employment partner Ashley Norman.

“Half of the respondents said they were fully aware [of the new legislation], but when we looked at what they’ve actually done, it’s only between a quarter and a third that have updated their policies,” added Norman.

In particular, he cited age discrimination as the one that could have the biggest impact on employers.

“Employers do need to be taking action, reviewing policies and updating them,” he argued. “For age they’re all completely new rights, not something that’s changing in existing law.”

Another surprising finding of the survey was that 5 per cent of respondents have received an equal pay questionnaire already, despite the fact that the controversial legislation was only introduced in April.

The survey also looked at the key drivers for employers to embrace the legislation. It found that a company’s reputation and its image were the most important issues.

“These two factors [reputation and image] are key,” the survey said. “Reputation lies at the heart of their ability to recruit the best people. Ninety per cent of respondents cited this as the main reason for addressing discrimination issues, and a further 72 per cent said they wanted to be regarded as a good employer.”

Only around 50 per cent of employers cites the devel-opment of a diverse workforce as a reason to adopt policies supporting the legislation.

Manchester firm George Davies Solicitors has won a host of new employment work after launching a scheme to help football clubs nationwide with employment issues.

The firm has been on the road presenting free seminars to managers and other staff who operate ‘Football in the Community’ schemes. These schemes are organised by the Footballers’ Further Education and Vocational Training Society Trust in conjunction with professional football clubs.

As a result, George Davies has won new instructions from the Norwich, Birmingham, Watford and Crystal Palace schemes.

The seminars were launched in June and have been running throughout the summer with more planned for the future.

George Davies employment partner Alan Lewis said: “Football in the Community employs over 3,500 people across the country, and it’s vital that people running the schemes are aware of their legal responsibilities.”

The seminars cover numerous aspects of employment, including recruitment and dismissal procedures, issues of sick leave and disciplining.

The firm also plans to extend the type of seminars and training that it offers. “We plan to set up more training at a high level for some of the more senior managers,” said Lewis.

Although the seminars are free, Lewis said they had significant tangible benefits for George Davies. “As an exercise it’s expensive,” he said. “But it’s generated a lot of new business.”

The firm also counts the Professional Footballers’ Association among its employment clients.