Employment Law in Practice
Employers rarely believe they have discriminated against an employee and dread having this raised as a claim. If it does happen and an employee raises a grievance or starts to complain, only you will know how seriously to take it and whether to consult with employment solicitors to resolve it quickly.
As always, make sure you know the law and especially in discrimination law, know the protected classes.
Investigate complaints, grievances and claims and take action. Do not ignore a complaint simply because it has not been raised as a formal grievance or claim - this is a good opportunity to resolve any issues informally. Instances of discrimination although often unintentional may happen. This does not mean there has to be a claim. The employer should promptly investigate the incident, determine the facts and take corrective action if necessary. These steps should be part of a formal company policy set out in the employment handbook. A fair and prompt corrective action when needed may avoid the employee making a claim or be a good defence to a claim.
Never retaliate to a discrimination complaint or a claim in the Employment Tribunal. You should not base decisions such as promotion, pay rise etc, on the fact that the employee has commenced an employment claim or raised a complaint or grievance. Otherwise, you may face a claim for victimisation, if you treat an employee less favourably because they have complained about discrimination.
Try to avoid suspending the employee from work, as this can give rise to a further complaint. You can always give the employee the option to stay at home on full pay.
The work environment should stay the same for the employee - take great care in preventing an unpleasant environment.
Be very careful what you say to other employees as to the complaint and try to keep the matter confidential, on a need to know basis. If rumours persist, then perhaps agree a statement with the employee, to improve the working environment for the employee.
Evidence is always the key to litigation, and especially written evidence, so be very careful as to e-mail exchanges. Warn relevant managers not to make any derogatory remarks and not to put any such remarks about the employee in writing. Also be careful what your managers say.
Do not pressurise or threaten the employee to accept a compromise agreement.
If the employee leaves then give their future employer a standard reference.
Following these tips will help an employer reduce and even avoid discrimination claims.