How up to date is your staff training really? Take a moment to answer these 5 questions:
- Do you have policies and procedures dealing with equality and diversity, for example in your staff handbook or intranet?
- When did you last review and update your policies and procedures?
- When did you last provide training to all staff, including your Practice Manager?
- Have you provided refresher training?
- Do you know how to investigate a complaint of discriminatory treatment?
If you have answered “no”, “not sure” or “over six months ago”, you should read on….
A recent decision in the Employment Appeals Tribunal raises the question of what is considered ‘reasonable’ when it comes to employers providing ongoing training to employees. In the case of Allay (UK) Limited v Gehlen, a colleague made racist comments to Mr Gehlen, who was of Indian origin. These comments were heard by and reported to other colleagues, including two managers, but nothing was done. Allay (UK) Limited sought to defend the claim brought against it by relying on section 109(4) of the Equality Act 2010, which states that an employer can defend a claim resulting from otherwise unlawful discriminatory actions of an employee, if it can demonstrate that all reasonable steps were taken to prevent employees from committing discriminatory acts. Here, the employer pointed to its policies and procedures on equality and harassment and training given to staff in 2015.
Allay (UK) Limited’s defence failed. Although the training clearly informed staff about what to do should harassment or discriminatory behaviour occur, at least three members of staff were aware of the racist comments made to Mr Gehlen and did nothing about it. The perpetrator tried to pass off the comments as banter. The Tribunal said that this showed that the training was “clearly stale” and that refresher training was a reasonable step which the employer could and should have taken, even though Allay (UK) Ltd was a relatively small employer. The failure to take this ‘reasonable’ step meant that they could not rely on the defence which required them to have taken all reasonable steps and compensation was payable to Mr Gehlen.
What steps should an employer take?
You may wish to review your current employee training schedule to make sure that it properly meets your requirements and provides for regular refresher training – then make sure the refresher training is undertaken.
Your policies and procedures should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are up to date both in terms of the law and relevance to your Practice. Do not rely on generic, off-the-shelf policies that are unlikely to reflect accurately your Practice’s specific needs. Similarly, your staff handbook should be bespoke to your Practice, to show that you have really considered the needs of your Practice and the policies adopted.
Achieving the standard required to rely on the defence is possible and within reach of all our primary care clients. If you would like to find out how we can help you make sure that you do not unintentionally cut off this potential line of defence, please contact Karen Black by email [email protected] or call 01483 511555