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Rod Webb

Glasstap Limited

Director and Co-Founder

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How well do you know Equal Opportunities Legislation?


This blog isn’t really my own work. Instead, I’ve created a four-question quiz, based on the Trainers’ Library game, A Level Playing Field, which we developed with the help of my good friend and colleague, Clare Forrest. 

With apologies to our many overseas customers, these questions relate to UK law as it currently stands in July 2016. 

The Questions

Question 1: Basic Knowledge

A job advertisement asks for female applicants to work in a refuge for women who have suffered domestic abuse. 

Is that discrimination?

Question 2: Multiple Choice

Two people approach you, separately; both are members of an organised, though different faith. Both say their religion requires them to pray at certain times of the day and they each require a prayer room. 

Must you provide one for each of them?

A: Yes.
B: No, they can share.
C: No, you don’t have to provide a prayer room.

Question 3: True or False

You must ask everyone the same questions at a recruitment interview. 

True or False?

Question 4: Case Study

Luke’s employer has said that he is no longer being considered for training and development for promotion. This is because Luke’s daughter has become disabled and they think he will have to take time off to look after her. Luke is a single father.

Is this legal?

The Answers

Question 1:

No. The law understands that there are certain jobs in which it is legitimate to recruit someone on the basis of a protected characteristic, and exclude others. These are known as Genuine Occupational Qualifications (GOQs).

In this example, women who have suffered domestic abuse from a man are unlikely to feel safe if there are male members of staff working in the refuge. It also raises issues of security. So, it is not discrimination for a refuge to advertise for women employees only.

Another legitimate GOQ is the need to employ a man or woman to ensure a dramatic performance is authentic. 

Question 2:

No. The law does not say that we have to provide a prayer room. However, if employees request access to a quiet place in which to meet their religious obligations, and such a place is available without it having any adverse impact on the business or other staff, then the employer may be acting in a discriminatory way if they refuse such a request. But the employer simply needs to designate a quiet place, not a prayer room.

Question 3:

False. It is a much repeated myth that equality law says you must ask everyone exactly the same questions. 

The issue is not the question asked but whether the reason for asking it might be to establish an answer that could lead to discrimination in the recruitment process. 

For example: Asking both men and women if they plan to have a family does not make it fair, since the result of a ‘Yes’ answer is more likely to discriminate against women.

However, provided the same broad subject areas are developed with each applicant, it is sensible to ask about things that are different for a particular candidate, or follow up an applicant’s answers with questions that relate to what they have said. 

Question 4:

No. For Luke’s employer to discriminate against him in this way would be associative discrimination because of this daughter’s disability. 

The Deeper Question

It’s important for staff at all levels to understand equal opportunities legislation and how it applies to them, and particularly important if they are a line manger or employed in recruitment. And ‘A Level Playing Field’ is a great way to review that understanding. 

However, equal opportunities and diversity is much more than knowing the law and ticking boxes. It’s about understanding where prejudice comes from (something I touched upon in this earlier blog) what discrimination feels like and, ultimately, it’s about knowing the value of difference and inclusion. 

So, don’t overlook the need to safely emotionally engage your participants in training around equal opportunities and diversity. That’s where experiential activities like ‘Land of the Nutritos’, ‘Acts of Recognition’, ‘Are you OK with this?’ and ‘Witches of Glum’, along with many others in Trainers’ Library come in. 

I love feedback, of all kinds, so please do leave a comment below. Finally, for loads of helpful tips and ideas from the team, follow us on Twitter @glasstaplimited. 

Rod Webb

Author Profile Picture
Rod Webb

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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