Presentation on theme: "Diverse Cultures, One Workplace What the law requires from you, and what you can do to harness the energy of a diverse workplace."— Presentation transcript:
Diverse Cultures, One Workplace What the law requires from you, and what you can do to harness the energy of a diverse workplace.
Why have a policy of equality and of respect for difference?
Because you should… Building a strong ethic of respect for diversity will avoid any tensions from building up amongst different ethnic groups in the workplace. The workplace is a microcosm of society. All members of society benefit from inclusiveness and a culture of equal opportunities.
To gain the economic advantage… In a hirers’ market, companies will want to maximise their advantage by ensuring they are hiring the very best from a diverse pool of applicants. Retention will improve in a company where employees feel valued as unique individuals. Having a diverse and flexible labour force will help your business to gain the advantage in Ireland’s export-driven, globally-linked economy.
Because it’s the law… Employers are required to accommodate difference, and to avoid treating any of their employees unequally on any of the nine grounds named in the legislation. Employers are required not merely to react properly to, but to actively prevent any kind of discrimination in the form of bullying and harassment in the workplace.
The Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2007
The legislation prohibits discrimination on any of these grounds: Gender Marital status Family Status Sexual orientation Race Religion Age Disability Membership of the travelling community
The legislation affects Access to employment/ recruitment; Conditions of employment, including pay and other benefits; Training or experience for employment; Promotion or re-grading; Classification of posts; Dismissal and collective agreements
The legislation applies to all types of workers Full-time, part-time and temporary; Private and public sector; Vocational training bodies; Employment agencies; Trade Unions; Professional and trade bodies.
If an employee claims your treatment of them has been affected by any of the nine grounds under which discrimination is prohibited…
…the burden of proof shifts to the employer…
…so you need to be able to show that you have applied objective criteria in your treatment of your employees, at all stages of the relationship – from hiring and managing the conditions of employment, to promotion, dismissal and redundancy.
A good diversity policy will help you to do more than merely avoid litigation… Work in a positive working environment; Increase loyalty, motivation and morale; Improve employee performance; Reduce absenteeism and staff turnover; Improve service to a diverse customer base; Improve your company image – remember that a good reputation attracts good talent, and…
…the most important benefit of all… You can contribute to the removal of barriers to full social and economic participation for all members of society, thereby contributing to a better Ireland.
Advertising The employee-friendly company attracts high- performance workers. Think about: – What are you doing to attract the best? – How are you reaching them? – Does your advertising reflect your policy on diversity and equal opportunities?
The application process Is your application form easily accessible to all segments of the labour market? For example, does it allow employees to give detail about on-the-job training that may not have an Irish equivalent? Does the form include a commitment to diversity & equality?
Requiring two references, both of which are from Irish jobs, will constitute discrimination. The Labour Court has clarified that two references may be required, where one is a character reference (Czerski v Ice Group, 2006). Be open to references from foreign companies. Consider asking a cultural intermediary to call the source of a reference from abroad, if there are communication difficulties.
Interviewing: beware of your unconscious prejudices…
DON’T judge the candidate within the first few moments of the interview; DON’T judge by appearance; DON’T assume all members of a particular ethnic minority all share the same characteristics; DON’T allow one good or bad answer to distort the totality of the interview; and DO apply objective criteria rather than vague impressions in making your selection.
It is a very important part of your diversity policy to make sure every member of the interview panel is trained in diversity and equality issues. The questions asked should apply to all candidates, and they should be documented. Your documentation should demonstrate that that criteria for selection were based solely on the essential skills required for the job. Keep interview documentation for 12 months.
And a final word about what might constitute discrimination: In Munck v NUI Maynooth (2005), the interview process was found to have been discriminatory as the assessment board implied that the candidate did not understand “the Irish dimension”. The Employment Appeals Tribunal made an award of €10,000 as compensation for discrimination.
Cultivate a productive atmosphere and improve employee satisfaction by making positive provision for cultural difference. Why? “Good retention costs less than recruitment.”
How? Establish a focus group or support group for ethnic minority or non-Irish workers – and listen to what they have to say; Establish a mentoring programme, pairing new staff with a person they can turn to while they are settling in; Consider accommodating dress or dietary religious requirements that may not be the norm here, and accommodating atypical religious practice.
Accommodate for special holidays - find out whether there are religious holidays you may not be aware of, and ask what is the best time for a foreign employee to take their long holiday and travel home. Plan for flexible unpaid leave, to allow for unplanned visits to the homeland in case of an illness or death in the family.
Language Colloquialisms, fast speech and technical jargon can confuse non-native speakers of a language – be sensitive, people may be reluctant to say they don’t understand. Consider whether you need to provide language training, to have other training interpreted, or to have contacts, policy documents or instructional literature translated.
At the very least… The onus is on the employer to make sure that all employees can fully understand the terms of employment and health and safety instructions: 58 Named Complainants who challenged Good Concrete Ltd on this issue each received an award of €5,000 from the Equality Officer for discriminatory treatment in 2008.
It is not good enough to assume people know their rights. The Labour Court made an award to the applicant in Rasaq v Campbell catering in 1998, as she had not been told she was entitled to have a representative present at a disciplinary hearing. This might have been avoided if the policy document covering disciplinary procedures had been translated and/or if its dissemination had included appropriate training.
A case against Mr. Eamon Murray of Kilnaleck Mushrooms made the headlines in The employer had dismissed all of his employees by telephone after they had arranged union representation in relation to an ongoing dispute. The dismissals were considered particularly unfair as the workers had limited knowledge of English, and therefore of their rights. The maximum award to each of them of two years’ salary illustrates the attitude of the EAT to any perceived exploitation of migrant workers.
How to avoid standing on the glass ceiling: Document (and disseminate) the essential competencies required for all levels and roles within the organisation. Ensure equality of access to training opportunities that may lead to career advancement. Ensure that all staff have equal opportunities to apply for promotion (and document the fact).
Develop fast-tracking processes to ensure that organisational diversity is reflected at higher levels. Monitor any statistical biases and examine whether you are allowing a glass ceiling to persist. Finally, ensure that any finalist who was not selected knows why, and how he or she can prepare for the next opportunity that arises.
…and at the very least… Apply fair & transparent selection procedures, make sure you have documented how they were applied to each candidate, and keep documentation for 12 months. An award of €20,000 for discrimination plus €5,000 for loss of earnings was made against St. James’ hospital in 2007, when they were unable to do so in respect of a candidate who had been passed over for promotion.
Like any other form of bullying or harrasment, the behaviour of staff or customers to other staff or customers can constitute racism. Employers should have a clear, concise policy in place to deal with racism, detailing: -a definition of racism/racist comments; -a confidential reporting procedure; -the process of investigation; -& disciplinary measures.
Your anti-racism policy should form part of your Bullying & Harassment Policy. The Equality Authority’s Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment is an excellent model. The policy should contain a clear and concise commitment to eliminate any racial or sexual harassment, and should detail the process that is in place to deal with any such behaviour.
It is not enough to have a written policy – you must ensure that it is disseminated and understood, and that the procedures are adhered to in practice. Remember that the onus is on the employer to safeguard against racial harassment in respect of all workplace relationships: – Management to staff; – Between staff members; – Staff to clients or customers; – Clients or customers to staff.
In a 2004 case against the Shelbourne Hotel, The Labour Court confirmed that the onus is on the employer to prevent racial harassment in the workplace, and spelled out the steps that must be taken…
What is expected of you - Investigate complaints; Don’t hold a complaint against the complainant; Implement your equality policy & provide support.
So what is support? At the very least, be sure to properly disseminate the Bullying & Harassment Policy. When Techniform (Waterford) Ltd hired an investigator to inquire into an imputation of harrasment, but failed to provide support to the person experiencing it, this constituted discrimination on the ground of race. The company had never even distributed the policy, a fact which was reflected in the award made against it…
When it comes to discrimination, bullying and sexual or racial harassment, the best policy is zero tolerance. Any employer who goes takes the extra steps to celebrate diversity will be richly rewarded as the unique and vibrant energy of a diverse workplace is harnessed.