June is designated as ‘Pride Month’ and seems as good a time as any for employers to be reminded of their general obligations regarding protected characteristics and discrimination in the workplace.
Pride Month is dedicated to raising awareness of the concerns facing the LGBTQ+ Community as well as encouraging inclusiveness and celebrating LGBTQ+ culture.
This is the 20th anniversary of ‘Pride Month’ since the initiative was set in place by US President Bill Clinton in 1999. It is a month intended for celebration, as well as the promotion of tolerance regardless of one’s orientation.
This global event highlights the importance of employers ensuring they remain mindful of their employees’ protected characteristics as set out by equality legislation – such examples of these would include race, disability and, of course, sexuality and gender.
For example, an employee must not be made redundant – or overlooked for a potential promotion – solely based on their protected characteristics. Additionally, employers must bear in mind employees’ protected characteristics while pondering potential changes to the business in order to avoid both direct and indirect discrimination.
While direct discrimination is relatively simply identified, indirect can be more difficult to account for. Examples of indirect discrimination include installing rules or policies that have bigger impacts on someone with a protected characteristic than it does on someone without one – such as a job requiring male employees to be clean-shaven.
While the employer’s intention is to ensure employees are tidy in their presentation, this indirectly discriminates against certain people such as Sikh men who are prohibited from shaving on the basis of religious beliefs. Indirect discrimination isn’t always unlawful. However, it is vital that an employer is capable of demonstrating that they have ‘objective justification’ for such a policy.
List of Protected Characteristics in Northern Ireland
• Civil Status (i.e. Married, Unmarried, Widowed etc)
• Family Status (Parent of person under 18, primary carer of family member with disability etc)
• Sexual Orientation
• Gender Reassignment
• Ethnic Origin
• Political Opinion
If you are an employer and you are unsure of whether your policies are in line with the laws surrounding protected characteristics, it is advised that you contact HR Team at hello@ hrteamgroup.com