Monday, 23 April 2012

Equality & Diversity News No.4: April 2012

In this newsletter:

  • Editorial: Monitoring for Discrimination or Monitoring for identify?
  • Caste Discrimination Update.
  • Imam blesses union of Gay Muslim couple in France
  • Guidance on Religion and Belief for Managers
  • Detective wins disability discrimination claim
  • Man with Epilepsy wins disability discrimination claim
  • Black people more likely to be jobless in Britain than US
  • Half of UK's young black males are unemployed
  • Prohibition of age discrimination in service delivery
  • Man who lost job for turning 65 wins discrimination case
  • Disabled teacher forced to quit job wins pay-out
  • Update on statutory codes of practice on the Public Sector Equality Duty
  • Any Questions/Comments

Editorial: Monitoring for Discrimination or Monitoring for Identity?

One of the perennial questions around equality and diversity concerns the issue of monitoring around the protected characteristics. It is now common practice for employers to monitor their employees for ethnicity, gender, disability and age, and more and more employers are considering introducing new monitoring areas such as sexual orientation and religion/belief. Most public bodies also regularly monitor their “customers” as well and ask them similar questions.

Such monitoring has not been without controversy, as there is often an instinctive reaction to having to define ourselves in predetermined ways which don’t fit easily into perceptions of our own identity. We also react against the notion that somehow our lives are “determined” by simple indicators (as expressed in the “black and white” categories we are presented with in such monitoring forms), rather than the complexities of what we all are – human beings. There is also suspicion o about the motives and intentions of public bodies in particular and how the information collected may be used. All these are legitimate concerns and those who introduce monitoring arrangements need to have the answers to these questions and be prepared to explain why they are collecting the information and the purposes it will be used for.

However, at the heart of this issue is, in my view, a misunderstanding of why the questions are being asked and the nature of the simple categories we are invited to tick. This is not helped by how the question is posed, as it often asks for people to tick the boxes that define their identity, when in really this is not really what is being asked for.

Equality monitoring should not be about – or perceived to be about - monitoring our self-defined identities, which are complex and shifting constantly over time and depend crucially on the context. In one context I will be “White” (this is particularly so when I visit India), in another “British” (when I am visiting Germany) and in another “English” (when I am in Scotland or Ireland); my age has naturally and inevitably changed over time but also changes in different contexts – when I am with young people I feel “older”, with my mother’s generation I am perceived to be (and thankful I feel) “younger”! As a heterosexual I rarely see my sexuality as defining my identity, as we live in a society that defines heterosexuality as “the norm”. I think, however, that if I were Gay this may be a more important signify in my life in certain contexts. I could go on with other examples, but I hope the above illustrates the point about the complex and shifting nature of identity – how could this ever be “captured” in an simple equality monitoring form with pre-defined categories – no wonder I might react against completing one if this is what I thought the purpose of the form was all about!

Equality monitoring is not about capturing identity, but capturing information that might be useful in being able to “see” how both personal and institutional discrimination/inequality might be operating and occurring – with the clear intention to try and do something about it (if inequalities can identified). Equality monitoring is about monitoring how discrimination can and does occur in our society, irrespective of what we, individually, my think or perceive our identity to be. It is about the results flowing from the behaviour of organisations and individuals that have unequal consequences, irrespective of intentions.

But I would go further. By discovering how discrimination may be occurring and how inequality is generated in our business, organisation or in the way we deliver services (and doing something about trying to eliminate or reduce it!) we move towards a society in which our individual, complex, identities are respected and valued and we are judged, not by the preconceived “boxes” we are placed in by direct and indirectly discriminatory behaviour and practices, but by (in the words of Martin Luther King) “the content of (our) character”.

So next time you are asked to complete a boring old equality monitoring form, don’t think “I don’t want to be defined in this way” (you are not and should not!), but rather: “by completing this form I am making a small contribution to identifying how discrimination may be operating and I am doing something to help get rid of it: thus create a more equal society”. It may make you feel differently about the process, or does it? I suppose it’s still a boring old form to complete....

Caste Discrimination Update

Last year I reported on an interesting Employment Tribunal case held in September 2011 on whether caste discrimination is covered by the Equality Act 2010. An Indian couple who met at a legal firm and subsequently had a “love marriage” alleged they were forced from their jobs because they were from different castes. After a 10-day hearing the tribunal judge re-listing the case for a further 15 days in March but, as far as I am aware, the result has not be made available as yet… so watch this space. See:

Imam blesses union of Gay Muslim couple in France

Two Muslim gay men tied the knot in France with the blessing of an Imam. Ludovic Mohamed Zahed, a French man of Algerian origin, and his South African partner Qiyam al-Din, were reportedly married in accordance with Sharia (Islamic law) in the presence of a Mauritian Imam named Jamal who blessed their union on February 12, 2012. The two were previously able to marry in South Africa under the country’s same sex marriage laws, but France does not recognise same sex unions. See:

Guidance on Religion and Belief for Managers

Some very useful guidance on the application of policies and practice around religion and belief in higher education (and undoubtedly will also be useful for managers in other contexts as well) has been produced by University College London. The opening introduction states:

“UCL is an inclusive, secular university that prides itself on its long-standing commitment to equality and diversity. UCL’s commitment to religious equality in particular is integral to its identity and heritage. Moreover, for UCL to merit its reputation as London’s Global University it needs to ensure that its managers are equipped with the skills and knowledge to make fairness and equality a reality for staff of different faiths and none.”

To get a copy of the guidance go to:

Detective wins disability discrimination claim

A female detective has won a compensation claim for disability discrimination against Warwickshire Police. Karen Beasley complained not enough was being done to help her with her progressive hearing loss. Mrs Beasley, who described herself as “someone with deafness who wears hearing aids,” made a successful compensation claim at the Birmingham Employment Tribunal.

She told the tribunal that the discrimination involved being refused permission to take the advanced driving test in January 2011, originally not being included on the list of officers taking an aptitude test, being assigned a low priority for an interview course and not re-assigned night detective duties and not provided with proper training or given the opportunity to gain formal accreditation. She further complained that she was allocated mundane work and that an email sent by another officer questioned her abilities. See:

Man with Epilepsy wins disability discrimination claim

A disabled man who worked for Solway Foods Ltd in Corby for more than 19 years has won his claim of constructive dismissal and disability discrimination against the company.

Despite suffering with epilepsy and being told such work could make him ill, Philip Hambly was given a new job sorting pallets on the production line last March. He immediately raised concerns, insisting that doing it would put himself and his co-workers in danger, but dispatch manager John Adkins and occupational health advisor Seymour Franklin disagreed. Mr Franklin claimed he undertook a risk assessment and concluded the job was safe. But Mr Hambly fell while doing the work and decided to resign.

During the case he received help and support from Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council (NREC). See:

Black people more likely to be jobless in Britain than US

Black people in Britain are more likely to be unemployed than those in the United States, especially during recessions, with successive UK governments "failing to protect minority ethnic groups", research reveals.
A paper presented at the British Sociological Association's annual conference in Leeds shows that in the last three recessions, unemployment among Black British men was up to 19 percentage points higher than among those in America. See:

Half of UK's young black males are unemployed

Unemployment rate for Black 16 to 24-year-olds available for work is now double that for white counterparts, ONS data shows. See:

Prohibition of age discrimination in service delivery

The prohibition of age discrimination in goods, facilities and services under the Equality Act 2010 has NOT come into effect on 6 April as originally planned. It is now likely to come into force in October.

Man who lost job for turning 65 wins discrimination case

An engineer who won a landmark age discrimination case after his employers told him to retire on his 65th birthday has seen the verdict upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Michael Bailey (68), had his employment with R&R Plant Hire, of King’s Dyke, Whittlesey, terminated on January 20, 2009 – the day of his 65th birthday. He was awarded £4,555 compensation last May after Judge Simon Richardson ruled that he was unfairly dismissed at an Employment Appeal Tribunal as Mr Bailey wished to continue working. His former employers tried to overturn that verdict, but the Court of Appeal in London upheld the decision at the beginning of April – and ordered the company to pay an additional £10,200 to Mr Bailey for legal costs built up defending the appeal.

The ruling could mean thousands of seniors across the country are able to stay in employment rather than being forced into retirement once they reach 65 years of age. Christopher Brooks, policy adviser on employment and skills at Age UK, welcomed the Court of Appeal’s verdict. Mr Brooks said:

“Discrimination on the grounds of age is not only wrong it is also illegal. Age UK believes older workers should be allowed to choose when they retire, but in reality often face being shut out of the job market through age discrimination. As a result, employers must recognise the value of older workers and put in place measures to help people in later life keep and find jobs. For example, introducing flexible working is shown to benefit both parties by improving work-life balance for the employee and productivity for the employer”

Disabled teacher forced to quit job wins pay-out

A disabled teacher has been awarded a six-figure pay-out after an employment tribunal ruled she was constructively unfairly dismissed by a Market Harborough school.

Leigh Lewis, who has polyarthritis, told an industrial tribunal in Leicester that she became ill after being moved to a classroom at Meadowdale Primary that was further away from the staff room and the toilets, and she had to resign. Mrs Lewis told the hearing the extra walking she had to do at school made her unable to carry on in her post. She took Leicestershire Education Authority and the governors of Meadowdale to a tribunal, claiming she was constructively dismissed and discriminated against because of her disability. Tribunal chairman Christopher Goodchild ruled that Mrs Lewis was constructively unfairly dismissed. He said that the governors of Meadowdale failed to make reasonable adjustments and were thereby in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

Update on statutory codes of practice on the Public Sector Equality Duty

In March 2012, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced that it is no longer able to proceed with plans for further statutory codes of practice on the Public Sector Equality Duty.

The EHRC website states:
“We were intending to produce further statutory codes of practice on the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), which came into force on 5 April 2011, and codes for the Further and Higher Education (FEHE) sector and schools.

Unfortunately, we are no longer able to proceed with these plans. The Government is keen to reduce bureaucracy around the Equality Act 2010, and feels that further statutory guidance may place too much of a burden on public bodies. Although the Commission has powers to issue codes, it cannot do so without the approval of the Secretary of State, as we are reliant upon government to lay codes before parliament, in order for them to be statutory.

It is the Commission’s view that, rather than creating a regulatory burden, statutory codes have a valuable role to play in making clearer to everyone what is and is not needed in order to comply with the Equality Act. However, as this is no longer an option, we feel the best solution is to issue our draft codes as non statutory codes instead. These non statutory codes will still give a formal, authoritative, and comprehensive legal interpretation of the PSED and education sections of the Act and will make it clear to everyone what the requirements of the legislation are.

The FEHE and schools underwent a full consultation in 2011 in the form of draft statutory codes, and we intend to publish the revised versions as non statutory codes shortly. The draft PSED non statutory codes will be published shortly for review and we will be looking for feedback on the draft texts so that we can make sure they fully meet the needs of public bodies and other potential users.”
For further information on EHRC Guidance and Codes see:

Any Questions/Comments

If you have questions or issues that you would like me to address in future newsletters, or you have comments and suggestions about the newsletter, please let me know by posting a comment on this blog.


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