In anticipation of the statutory questionnaire being abolished on 6 April, Acas has published guidance for jobseekers and employees who think they may have been discriminated against under the Equality Act 2010.
Currently, workers can request information from their employer about their complaint on a standard questionnaire form, which can be sent to the employer any time before they lodge their tribunal claim or within 28 days of lodging it. If the employer fails to answer the
questions within eight weeks or replies in a way that the tribunal considers to be evasive, it can draw an inference of unlawful discrimination.
Although the questionnaire is being withdrawn, there is obviously nothing to stop potential claimants from putting questions to their employerand Acas has drawn up a simple six-step template to follow:
Step one - the questioner should set out their details and that of the person they want to answer their questions
Step two - the questioner should set out the protected characteristic under the Equality Act that they consider has been affected
Step three - the questioner should describe what happened to them
Step four - the questioner should set out the type of discrimination they have experienced
Step five - the questioner should say why they think it was unlawful
Step six - the questioner should outline any further questions they would like to ask
In addition, although tribunals will no longer have a statutory right to draw an adverse inference, there is nothing to stop them from doing so if the employer does not reply or is evasive in their answers.
Potential claimants should, in any event, use the employer’s grievance procedure, or other internal dispute resolution mechanism before lodging their claim with a tribunal. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, Acas provides a free “Early Conciliation” service which may avoid the need to make a claim.
Neil Todd at Thompsons said: “It is disappointing that the government has chosen to abolish the statutory questionnaire given that 83% of those consulted were in favour of keeping it. However, Claimants who believe they have been discriminated against should continue to put forward questions in line with the ACAS guidance in order to elicit further information, as this can be still used to support potential claims where appropriate”.
To read the guidance, go to: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/m/p/Asking-and-responding-to-questions-of-discrimination-in-the-workplace.pdf