HR Checklist & Action Points for Employers

This checklist will provide a list of the documents necessary to outline your policies to deal with and ensure discrimination does not occur. Organisations should ensure that this document outline the policies to promote diversity and equality and ensure employees do not experience discrimination this checklist is a basic reminder.

Protected groups

Issue: You will have statements in your policies outlining your commitment to not discriminating on the grounds of various characteristics. Make sure they cover each of the protected groups i.e. age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex and sexual orientation.

Documents to check include: equality & diversity policy, job descriptions, recruitment policy and forms, bullying & harassment policy, maternity policy, compassionate leave policy, complaints policy.

Discrimination types

Issue: You may need to expand your current lists of disciplinary offences or the types of discrimination that you as an employer or service-provider take action against. Update the definitions where you have quoted them. These include:

Consider in what circumstances employees might encounter harassment from third parties and how policies and procedures might be adapted to prevent it. However, the stricter requirements for third party behaviour to amount to ‘harassment’ mean that one-off incidents may still occur without the employee having any recourse to complain.

Consider how reporting procedures can be improved to keep track of third party harassment. Be aware that an employee can complain of harassment even if the harassment was not aimed at him or her, or the employee doesn’t possess the protected characteristic e.g. the complainant doesn’t need to be gay to complain of harassment which assumes they are gay. The Act extends this to allow an offended onlooker to complain. (nb: currently under review)

Consider how policies and procedures might need to be operated differently to avoid associative discrimination claims. Recruiting and operational managers are likely to be familiar with dealing with employees under anti-discrimination laws, but are not likely to be familiar with how a characteristic of an employee’s relative can also be relevant. There might, therefore, be a requirement to review an absence warning procedure to take account of where absences are caused by the characteristics of a dependant.

Documents to check include: equality & diversity policy, bullying & harassment policy, grievance policy, disciplinary policy, complaints policy, code of conduct, governing documents.

Health checks and absence questioning

Issue: You are no longer permitted to ask about an individual’s absence record or health before they are offered a job – subject to a few exceptions. Check (or state) that you don’t collect information or enquire into an individual’s health or disability, or absences that has been as a consequence of their disability, in the application or interview stage prior to a candidate being offered a post except in limited circumstances. (You may complete checks post-offer with a view to making reasonable adjustments or ensuring the individual is capable of doing the job. Care should still be taken so seek advice if you’re unsure).

Ensure that line managers and managers responsible for recruitment are trained on the implications of the Act. In most organisations, it will be the actions of line managers and recruiting managers that will present the greatest risk of unlawful discrimination claims under the Act. The new provisions on pre-employment medical questions, associative discrimination and combined discrimination are those managers need mainly to be aware of managers as they may not be aware of their implications. Make sure they know about and understand the practical implications of these changes.

Documents to check include: recruitment policy and forms

Positive action

Issue: Review any positive action measures already adopted to ensure they satisfy the new conditions which will allow employers, and others, in certain circumstances to address the needs of people who share a protected characteristic and face certain disadvantages associated with a protected characteristic. The ‘proportionality’ test is new and employers will need to look more carefully at their aims and the evidence they have to support them.

Consider positive action in connection with recruitment/promotion as this will not be allowed if it would discriminate against someone else. Employers who reserve traineeships for example for younger candidates or people from certain minority ethnic groups need to check the validity of their actions.

Documents to check include: recruitment policy and forms; equality & diversity policy

Pay secrecy

Issue: Check whether you use “pay secrecy” clauses in your contracts. Be mindful that you can’t enforce these clauses where a worker is seeking to find out whether there is a link between their pay and them having a protected characteristic. Restrictions still apply re disclosure to competitors.

Public sector bodies (over 150 staff) will need to publish their gender pay gap annually from July 31st. 2011. For private sector and community sector it will remain voluntary for the time being. Documents to check include: employment contracts, pay policy

Citing legislation

Issue: Ensure that where you have mentioned equality laws and regulations in your HR policies, you now refer to the Equality Act 2010.

Documents to check include: Diversity policy, recruitment policy and forms, staff handbook, bullying and harassment policy – though also check more widely.
nb: whilst this list covers the major impacts of the Act it is not exhaustive