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Seb Anthony

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Employer’s responsibility for discrimination?


Three questions for to assist me in preparing a diversity training session, so far I have had differing views?

The questions:

1. When is a private space also an extension of the workplace?

Has there been or is there a clear definition of when a night out by a group of colleagues can be /couold be treated as an extension of the workplace?

2. It is stated in the act that employers who don't stop discrimination, harassment and bullying by their employees may be breaking the law.

So Is there a responsibility or legal consequence for an employer to act on behaviour by a staff member which is discriminatory if the behaviour is outside of work and maybe even not against another staff member and they are advised of it?

3. If vehicles are considered an extension of the working environment so you are potentially at risk. However if this is a personal arrangement between the two employees and is always outside working hours then you need not be concerned.

If this is a formal arrangement or supported and promoted by the employer could it be argued that the car was an extension of the workplace?

Would this mean that people sharing lifts via an office sponsored car sharing scheme are in the workplace and therefore any discriminatory behaviour is the employer’s responsibility?

Nick Hindley

3 Responses

  1. Some Answers,,,
    Maybe not definitive but a starting point.

    1. There is no clear definition of when a private space is an extension of a workplace. However common sense should enable a reasonable definition of anytime colleagues are gathered at a company function (which is different from two folk going to the pub) either formal or informal.

    2. Yes, there is an obligation when the criteria in part 1 are met for an employer to address any discrimination, harassment or bullying that occurs if they are aware of it. “Not against another staff member” doesn’t cut it. I find racist jokes offensive and I’m not of an ethnic minority (in the UK – I am here in the Middle East) and I can sue you for harassment and discrimination because of that, even though I’m not the target of the action.

    3. Difficult – certainly if it occurs in a company car and you aware of it then it needs stamping out. I would suggest caution here but that in all instances I would take some form of remedial action if an action occured that would count as an inappropriate. You don’t have to fire people for an offense – you just need to make it clear that the behaviour is unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and such actions will lead to disciplinary action. But write up any action taken even if it doesn’t lead to a formal warning and get it signed – otherwise you have no evidence…

    4. Why ask this question here rather than on HRzone? Just out of interest?

  2. Why here?
    It was supposd to be on the hR zone – must have ticked the wrong box?

    Thanks for your comments. There does still seem to be a lot of wooley areas.

  3. Discrimination
    At midnight last Sunday the laws on sexual harassment were altered to include situations when staff face this detriment from customers or clients. The burden of proof and new concepts of associated discriminaton have also changed.There are further changes too. We receive a regular briefing on these issues.If you send me your e mail I can arrange for these to be sent to you.



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