By Keir McDonald MBE, Educare

A new Equality Act came into force back in 2010. This Equality Act brought together over 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single Act. Combined, they make up a new Act that provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all.

The Act simplifies, strengthens and harmonises disparate legislation to provide a discrimination law that protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.

As a business owner, here’s what you need to know about the Equality Act and how complying with equality and diversity training impacts your business.

Leveraging Diversity Is Good for Business

First and foremost, according to recent research, organisations which excel at leveraging diversity will experience better financial performance in the long run that organisations that do not effectively manage diversity. This involves the hiring and advancement of women and non-white men into senior management jobs and providing a climate conducive to contributions from people of diverse backgrounds.

Promote Equality and Diversity Compliance in the Workplace Through Training

Ensure your human resources staff and leadership are up to date on labor and employment laws and that they regularly audit the organisation's fair employment practices and hiring decisions.

Although workplace equality and diversity are very different concepts, both rely on compliance to be effective. Training programmes are designed to increase employees’ knowledge and understanding of your businesses’ approach to equal opportunities and diversity as well as fundamental understanding of the Care Act.

Increasingly these courses are being offered online as e-learning courses, as opposed to in-person or classroom facilitated events.

Understand the Equality Act’s Nuances

The Discrimination by Association Category of Equality Law was introduced as part of the Equality Act and continues to have the greatest impact on businesses. This new category of “discrimination by association” allows carers of disabled children or elderly parents to claim they suffered in the office as a result of their responsibilities at home.

“Association discrimination” claims arise when an employee claims he or she has been discriminated or retaliated against because of an association or relationship with a disabled person. While a small proportion of discrimination claims are based on association discrimination, their numbers are on the upswing.

As an employer you must be sure that you not only treat the employees themselves according to the ADA, but also need to take into consideration the employees’ relatives and other associates.

You are Responsible for Monitoring Equality and Diversity

Employers with more than 10 employees, each working 16 or more hours per week, must register with the Equality Commission and monitor the community background composition of their job applicants and employees. By law, you must register, monitor, submit an annual report and take affirmative action, among other things which you can read about on the Equality Commission’s website here.
It’s important to understand your responsibilities as a business owner when it comes to equality and diversity.

Equal opportunities monitoring is an important means of demonstrating and implementing your commitment to promoting equality of opportunity within your business. It can assist you to identify barriers that prevent access to employment and career development for certain groups of people, and to develop solutions, such as positive action plans or alternative policies and practices.

With a small investment of time and money, you can embrace diversity and equality, ensure compliance with the laws, and help your business thrive.