A few weeks ago, hrlaw (in conjunction with The Times) asked you for your views on whether the rumours and recent press headlines about discrimination in the City are true? Does discrimination continue to be rife or have just a handful of cases been blown out of all proportion? Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to the survey, the results of which were very interesting indeed, and hopefully helps separate the fact from the fiction.

The survey revealed that:

Diversity/Equal opportunities policy

Over 82 per cent of employers in the survey have an equal opportunities policy. However, only half of these have been introduced in the last five years.

Over 80 per cent of employers do not disseminate their diversity/equal opportunities policy on an annual basis and only 36 per cent of the employers who responded confirmed that they provided any diversity or equal opportunities training.

Claims

More than a quarter of respondents said that their organisation had at some time faced a sex discrimination claim. However, only 16 per cent of respondents confirmed that there had been an increase in the number of sex discrimination claims pursued against their organisations within the last five years.

Interestingly, an overwhelming 90 per cent of respondents believed there was a link between increased media coverage of sex discrimination claims and the number of female workers pursuing such claims.

Grounds for discrimination

Respondents were asked which three grounds for discrimination concerned them most as HR professionals. The top three were race, gender and sexual harassment. These were closely followed by disability. Religion/belief and sexual orientation appeared to be of little concern to respondents.

Conclusions

The results seem to suggest that:

Although the vast majority of employers do have diversity/equal opportunities policies in place; this seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon, as only half have been introduced over the last five years. This suggests a correlation with increased press coverage of discrimination.

However, it is concerning that although employers are creating policies to comply with increased regulation; once these policies are in place, little time and effort is being invested in disseminating them to employees more than once a year. Of equal concern is that a very low percentage of employers are actually providing any practical diversity and equal opportunities training to reinforce these written policies.

Overall, our survey showed that whilst many respondents have faced discrimination claims, they are only making superficial attempts towards becoming equal opportunities employers. In these circumstances, their position would be prejudiced should they need to defend a discrimination claim in the Employment Tribunal. Employees are becoming more aware of their rights due to extensive media reporting and with more potential exposure for employers from recent additional grounds of discrimination being introduced and from age discrimination being outlawed in 2006, the prospect of employers facing a discrimination claim is becoming increasingly likely.

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