Having dealt with nearly 50,000 calls on discrimination last year, Acas has launched three, free equality guides to help employers and managers get to grips with the law on equality.

The three guides - “Equality and discrimination: understand the basics”; “Prevent discrimination: support equality”; and “Discrimination: what to do if it happens” - offer a wide range of practical advice. They also recommend that employers have policies in place to ensure they identify, tackle and prevent discrimination in the workplace.

The guides make a number of key points, as follows:

  • Employees who believe they have been subjected to discrimination, or who believe they have witnessed discrimination in the workplace, should be able to feel confident in raising the matter with their employer and assured it will be taken seriously.
  • The Equality Act makes certain exemptions and exceptions where in some limited situations treating employees and job applicants less favourably can be lawful. For example, in certain and rare circumstances, it may be lawful for an employer to specify that applicants for a job must have a particular protected characteristic under the Act.
  • Both employers and their employees can be held responsible and liable for their actions where they discriminate.
  • To effectively stay within the law, promote equality and prevent discrimination, employers should have policies in place so all employees know what is acceptable and expected of them as individuals and as part of the organisation.
  • Employers should make clear in their policies how they will handle concerns or complaints about discrimination. However, if the complaint is lodged by the employee as a grievance, the employer must follow certain minimum procedures set out in the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.

Victoria Phillips of Thompsons Solicitors commented “the ACAS guides are very useful for both trade unions and employers. So often, employers are not aware of the very practical and common sense guidance given by ACAS. Trade union representatives should not hesitate to make sure they are aware of the contents and importantly, draw them to the attention of their employers. Unlawful discrimination cannot be tolerated in today’s society and ignorance of the law is no defence.”

To access the guides, go to: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1363