Page 2: Employment processes and legislation
Discrimination is a prejudice towards a particular group. Where discrimination occurs in the workplace, individuals are treated less favourably. In an ideal world, legislation to counter discrimination would not be necessary. Many businesses take their responsibilities very seriously. In a competitive business environment, organisations like to be viewed in a positive way. Treating employees unfairly could damage the reputation and, ultimately, the sales of a business.
To ensure that all organisations meet their responsibilities, governments have introduced legislation through Acts of Parliament. These laws are designed to protect employees against discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion or age at work.
- The Race Relations Act 1976 protects individuals from unfair treatment on the grounds of race.
- The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 aims to ensure that men and women are treated equally in the workplace.
- A more recent piece of legislation is the Age Discrimination Act 2006. This makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals simply on the basis of their age.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 was introduced to remove the discrimination faced by many disabled people at work (or in looking for work). The Act states that somebody has a disability if he or she has 'a physical or mental impairment, which has a long-term or substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'.
The Act places a duty on organisations to make 'reasonable adjustments' to accommodate disability on an individual basis. For example, this might require a business to install a ramp for wheelchair access or to provide software for employees with visual impairments so that text in a computer file is read out as well as displayed on screen. Other adjustments could include changing an employee's working hours, providing software to read Braille or installing chairs that provide extra support for those with back problems. Lloyds TSB has made adjustments of this type for around 4,000 of its staff. Such adjustments can make a huge difference to an employee's work experience. Ruth works at Lloyds TSB in Manchester and has been blind since birth. Lloyds TSB has provided Ruth with JAWS software (Job Access With Speech). 'Initially, it took a bit of getting used to but now I wouldn't be without it. JAWS enables me to work independently and be fully effective in my role and as part of the team. The support of colleagues and management has also been invaluable.'
Lloyds TSB's approach is to be positive about disability and strive to make Lloyds TSB a 'great place to work' for disabled employees. It is not just about meeting its legal obligations. It has gone beyond the requirements of legislation in order to meet the specific employment needs of each disabled employee. In doing this, Lloyds TSB is looking to create an inclusive work environment where their disabled employees have the same access to development opportunities as their non-disabled colleagues. Whilst there is still a lot of work to be done in this area, what has been achieved so far is helping to create a work environment that supports and helps all disabled staff.