In the second of our articles on employment disputes, we are going to focus on discrimination. Employment disputes involving discrimination can be some of the most complex and sensitive that a business will encounter. For many, these issues are the hardest to solve as they deal with deep rooted emotions and feelings of inequality for the employee in question. As of 2010, the 116 key pieces of legislation covering equality and unlawful discrimination were merged to form the Equality Act 2010. This included information from the Sex Discrimination Act, the Disability Discrimination Act and the Race Relations Act, as examples.
The characteristics for discrimination within Equality Act are split into two categories – those for employment and those for service provisions. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on employment discrimination. The nine characteristics that fall under this remit include discrimination because of:
- Sex (gender)
- Gender reassignment
- Pregnancy or maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status
In addition, discrimination can take many forms. Some of the most common types protected by law include:
- Employment terms and conditions
- Pay and benefits
- Promotion and transfer opportunities
For any employer, discrimination allegations are a serious complaint and should be treated as such.
How mediation can help with employment discrimination disputes
Initially, the individual in question should be able to go down an official complaints process put in place within the organisation. If the results from this are unacceptable, mediation is an ever-popular tool for finding an effective solution. Similar to other forms of conflict resolution, mediation provides an unbiased space to discuss the issue openly and come to an amicable solution for both parties.
In many cases, the cause for discrimination comes from a lack of understanding. This can be when language or actions are used which are deemed inappropriate and offensive to the person in question but not fully understood by the opposing party. Mediation sessions allow the discriminated party to clearly explain the feelings and emotions that were/are experienced in a clear manner. It is a confidential space which gives confidence to each side and can be used early on in the complaints process or appropriate investigation.
During these sessions, each party will be given the opportunity to discuss the situation at hand. The mediator stands as a facilitator throughout, steering the conversation and offering suggestions based on his/her experiences. The employer is given the chance to clearly understand what the optimal solution would be for the discriminated party. From here, they can begin to form a plan built on an understanding of the realistic capabilities of the company.
Common outcomes following mediation in employment discrimination cases
Depending on the nature of the complaint, the solutions a mediation session may come to, vary. For some, the implementation of a more appropriate complaints system could be satisfactory to both parties. In other cases, it may be important to introduce a level of training and education for employees, allowing them to better understand the discrimination character in question. Employees will then be more equipped to challenge discriminatory behaviour and deal with issues internally in the future.
When is mediation the right choice?
As the Equality Act 2010 covers such a broad scope of discriminatory offences, mediation is now regularly used in legal procedures against businesses. For the organisation, mediation provides a low-cost and commonly effective route for solving issues in a confidential manner. For the person in question, mediation affords them the opportunity to vent their feelings of discrimination openly and demand a more effective tool for complaints in the future. It allows both parties to become further educated on the current restrictions and restraints faced within a workplace before coming to an agreement as to how to change these.
Mediation has been effectively used in many wrongful dismissal cases and continues to be a popular option for companies of all different sizes. Each session is flexible, working to the requirements of each party and can provide a more informal method of discussion than a court proceeding.
If you’re seeking more information about mediation and its benefits for employment discrimination resolutions, The Resolution People can help. We can provide information and advice alongside pointing the way to the right mediator for your individual complaint.