Discrimination is always a hot topic in the world of HR. We spend a lot of our time of making sure employers aren't discriminating against their employees for any reason. But some 'reasons' are much clearer cut than others. For example, you might not think it, but it's possible (and quite easy) to discriminate against an individual because of their marriage or civil partnership status....
Marriage And Civil Partnership Status Is One Of The Lesser Known Protected Characteristics Under The Equality Act 2010
The Act states that it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee or worker because they are married or in a civil partnership, in exactly the same way as it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of age, disability, sexual orientation or race or one of the other protected characteristics.
It's A Complex Issue & The Latest Advice Is Readily Available Online
Acas recently published a guide for employers on how they should handle their duty not to discriminate when it comes to marriage and civil partnership and the guide explains what marriage and civil partnership discrimination is and how it can occur in your business (you can read the full guidelines here).
Think This Isn't Relevant To Your Business? Think Again
You may well be reading this thinking that this doesn’t apply to you and that you absolutely don’t discriminate based on marriage and civil partnership.
But, the biggest risk for employers isn’t direct discrimination (where as an example you wouldn’t promote an employee because a role involves travel and you feel that the role would be better suited to a single person) but rather indirect discrimination which is when an policy or practice which applies to all your employees has the effect of discriminating against a certain group of people, in this case, those that are married or in a civil partnership.
You should also be careful that you’re not making assumptions at any point during the employment journey. As an example, any of your employees that are involved in the recruitment process (or equally involved in any internal recruitment processes) should not make assumptions about how an employee’s personal circumstances might impact their performance, for example assuming that people who are married or in a civil partnership might be less willing to work irregular hours or travel.
As an employer, you must ensure that all of your terms and conditions of employment – including your contractual benefits – don’t generally disadvantage or exclude employees because they are married or a civil partner.
For help and support with your policy documentation, contracts of employment or any other HR issue drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0203 627 7048.