I could start the article by stating the obvious, by setting out the laws and good practice but people know that this behaviour is discriminatory and in breach of the Equality Act......surely?
I have heard a number of employers tell me that such comments are just 'banter' or 'one offs' and even 'they didn't mean to offend'. The point is that it's not just about intention and it's not okay to say 'that's the way it is' or 'it happens all the time'. This behaviour is simply not acceptable and often in breach of the law.
Employers should also know that they could be vicariously liable for the behaviour of their staff and individuals can also be named in proceedings. Therefore, even if employers don't want to get it right for the right reasons, this risk of liability (which means time, money, potential damage to reputation and stress) should be a wake up call to start paying attention.
Discriminatory behaviour often links to lack of knowledge and understanding. It can be linked to bad behaviours being ignored and therefore becoming accepted workplace culture. It may be a lack of understanding of some aspects of the law (all because the intention wasn't to create an intimidating environment, if it had that effect, it could well be an issue).
My best advice is to start building good foundations in the workplace now. Get your policies reviewed and updated, train your staff (the wonderful Diverse Matters can offer brilliant courses), make reporting such behaviours easier and take each complaint seriously.
Leah Anidi-Ryz, 38, started a senior role in one of the world’s biggest insurance companies in 2013 and immediately found herself subjected to workplace ‘banter’ for being female and gay.