No Image Available

Seb Anthony

Read more from Seb Anthony

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Discrimination, incentives and prizes


I was wondering if prizes/incentives such as alcohol are discriminatory on the grounds of religious discrimination? Taking this further will prizes/ incentives such as iPods, video games, concert tickets also allowable given their obvious age bias?
You wouldnt think of giving ciggies are prizes so why is champers or a 'pint on me' acceptable? It has health implications as well as religious discrimination issues.

Dont get me wrong I'm not a kill joy I'm simply asking the question as its got me thinking where the boundary is drawn?
Juliet LeFevre

10 Responses

  1. an interesting question…
    Last time I was looking at an iPod for my 15 year old son, a 76 year old lady struck up a conversation about them…she then bought one for herself….

    Personally I’d have thought that the point of an incentive is to motivate…if your incentive doesn’t motivate a proportion of your workforce then it is not incentivising. Rather than it being “discriminatory” it is just wasteful.

  2. Interesting questions!
    My understanding is that what you describe is not discriminatory in the context of the accepted definitions of either direct or indirect discrimination. If eligibility to enter a competition, or be considered for a prize or incentive, was denied on the grounds of age, gender, race or other personal attribute, then that could be discriminatory. I don’t think that iPods, video games and concert tickets have a consistent age bias. For example, many young people are not interested in iPods whereas I am pushing 60 from the wrong direction and have an MP3 player. Video games are not only played by teenagers; many older adults also enjoy them.

    Religious faith is not a reliable indicator for alcohol consumption. For example, Muslims are not allowed by their faith to drink alcohol yet alcoholism is a significant problem in some Muslim communities. However, if a company that employs a significant Muslim workforce were to offer alcohol as a prize or incentive then that could be regarded as inappropriate and insensitive. People whose religious faith does not prohibit alcohol may choose to abstain for non-religious reasons.

    Regarding what is acceptable for tobacco and alcohol, I think we associate tobacco with negative and serious health problems, and therefore it is not appropriate as a prize. Our attitude towards alcohol is generally positive and celebratory, and therefore acceptable as a prize. Yet alcohol can be very harmful to some people and may have little or no value as a prize to a non-drinker, or to someone who has been affected badly by alcohol abuse.

    It seems to me that whatever is chosen as a prize or incentive it is possible to identify either an individual or group for whom it wouldn’t be appropriate, and may even cause offence. I think that two of the boundaries need to be common sense and tolerance!

  3. Specifics
    >>>>I think that two of the boundaries need to be common sense and tolerance!>>>>

    I fully support you on that Eddie, however the issue is that this boundary is legally defined and thats what I seek to explore.

    Alcohol or prizes (rewards) ‘disadvantage’ sections of the workforce and that is discriminatory. They may even promote or reinforce a ‘youth culture’ – soon to be outlawed.
    I agree certain sections of society will always be disadvantaged and that society and trends change. My point is that benefits and rewards in the workplace are covered under the discrimination Acts but just where is the limit of the legally enforceable boundary?

  4. One man’s meat (or woman’s!)
    Interesting discussion. Incentives and reward can be a major headache, and not just in terms of discrimination. The old adage – ‘You can’t please all of the people all of the time’ strikes a chord here. There will always be someone who is not incentivised by the incentive offered! Wouldn’t it be easier to offer a choice of item or vouchers, or a gift of their choice to a certain value. That way, all possible allegations of discrimination are avoided.

    Have a great weekend!


  5. Discrimination
    There is some caselaw around the issue. Last year a Muslim took his employer(a large private health organisation) to court for providing gift hampers which only contained alcohol gifts. The key thing is ,as your correspondents say, to offer a range of choices



  6. age-related prizes are not so clear cut
    I think the alcohol case is clear cut. However the age issue is more subjective and subtle.

    The issue is not whether some older people use ipods, video games or go to pop concerts. If it can proved that younger people are more likely to enjoy these items then indirect discrimination would have occured.

    It might not prove to be a strong case based solely on this.

    But this could be used to support an employees case of age discrimination if there were other issues in the workplace (most employees were ‘young’, ageist jokes, older people not attending training etc..)

  7. Alcoholic prizes from the non-drinkers’ pov
    Two comments on this: the first is that I’ve always found the company policy on alcohol to be a helpful guideline. More and more do not allow alcohol on the premises, nor for it to be consumed during working hours. The second is from the point of view of the non-drinker. Mainly we get a bit tired of how unoriginal it is to give alcohol as a prize or incentive, rather than claim discrimination – it just looks lazy – but for some of us, we end up inadvertently causing offense, as my religion advises that I should not even accept it and not drink it. Then the trainer gets embarrassed, and the whole thing about it being motivational goes out of the window! The previous comment about not being able to tell is very valid, and so I always have a choice and ask the winner(s) to choose what they want.

  8. Prize or Incentive
    It’s probably important to distinguish between prizes and incentives.

    I think of a prize being offered for a competition so it helps if it is attractive to the competitors. If offering a prize to encourage feedback/responses then offer a prize that attracts the type of people you want feedback/responses from. People can then choose whether or not to enter the competition.

    I think of an incentive as being offered to all employees who don’t always have the choice of “entering” the scheme. In this case it would be sensible to find out what would act as an incentive to the majority.

    I guess it depends on what you are trying to achieve.

    Best wishes



Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!