Many employers and managers will probably have heard of the terms ‘harassment’ and ‘bullying’, but what about ‘victimisation’?

The Equality Act 2010 states that a person victimises an individual if they treat someone badly because they have performed a ‘protected act’ or they believe that have done so or suspect they will.

But what does this actually mean?

  • A protected act includes making a claim for discrimination, helping someone to make a claim (for example, they give evidence) and making allegations that they or someone else has violated the Equality Act.
  • Treating some badly could mean being excluded from conversations or activities, denying someone a promotion, denying them training opportunities, disciplining them or dismissing them.

As long as the employee has acted in good faith, they are still protected from victimisation even if the allegations turn out to be false.

How can employers prevent victimisation occurring in their workplace?

Here are five steps you can take:

1 Train your managers

Give your managers training so they understand the terms ‘discrimination’ and ‘victimisation’ and what the Equality Act says about them.

2  Deal with grievances

You should never just ignore or shrug off an employee’s complaint about discrimination. Managers need to deal with grievances promptly and investigate the matter to see if there is any merit to the complaint and take appropriate action.

3  Keep records

You should keep accurate records of the reasons behind your decisions. For example, document the reasons why the employee was not promoted or why they faced disciplinary action.

4  Be careful when making recruitment decisions

If you withdraw a job offer because someone has given evidence against a previous employer or has submitted a claim of discrimination, you could end up with a claim of victimisation.

You should keep records of job descriptions, person specifications, application forms, shortlisting records, interview assessments, scoring grids and assessment results to be able to demonstrate the reasons behind your recruitment decisions and show you are not being discriminatory.

5  Deal with references appropriately

A refusal to provide a reference or giving a poor reference may also result in a claim for victimisation if done in retaliation for an employee having brought discrimination proceedings or given evidence against you in the past. It is best to provide standard references for all employees, keeping it short and factual to reduce liability.

To discuss this matter further, contact your Employment Law Adviser who can guide you.

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