Would you tell one of your employees they had fat arse?We all know cycling as a sport is surrounded by a vast amount of controversy, which usually involves various allegations concerning riders taking some sort of performance enhancing drugs.  It’s fair to say that the Tour de France is the usual ring-leader here.  However with the Olympics on the horizon and the Tour stating in July, British Cycling has got it’s own issues to deal with right now.

Shane Sutton, Technical Director of British Cycling had been suspended following allegations by Jess Varnish, a British track cyclist, that he made sexist comments to her and told her to ‘go away and have a baby’.  This followed a report in the Daily Mail, which claimed that Sutton had made derogatory comments about para-cyclists.

Sutton has since resigned following these allegations but it makes you start to think that as an employer what can you be doing to help prevent this type of situation occurring in your own business.

Discrimination comes in all shapes and sizes and more often than not it isn’t intentional.  In 2010 the Equality Act came into being, replacing various discrimination laws, with the simple aim to improve equal job opportunities and fairness for employees and job applicants.

Now fairness in the workplace is a vital part of a successful business but just how do we achieve this?  Encouraging equality and diversity and preventing discrimination are legal obligations, but they are also ethically and commercially good practices for any business.

So what can you do?

The starting point is to introduce an Equality and Diversity Policy.  It doesn’t need to be long and will vary depending on the size and nature of your business but should include information as such:

  • the organisation’s commitment to provide equality for all its staff and job applicants
  • it’s aim to encourage, value and manage diversity in the workforce
  • It’s goal to attain a diverse workforce, which is representative of the areas it is drawn from and its customers
  • that the organisation will seek to provide a workplace where all employees can give their best, where discrimination, bullying, harassment and victimisation will not be tolerated, and decisions are based on merit
  • that breaches of the policy will be regarded as misconduct, and dealt with through the organisation’s disciplinary procedures.

Another vital aspect is training your staff.  Training about equality, diversity and preventing discrimination needs to help employees understand the law and what it means; the organisation’s approach to equality, diversity and preventing discrimination; the standards of behaviour expected of employees and what is unacceptable and finally who to go to if employees need advice.

All sounds quite simple but in my experience few organizations spend the time to make sure they are supporting their employees the way they should and being clear about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour.

As an employer your responsible and potentially liable for the actions of your employees, so it’s important you make your expectations clear and that your managers doesn’t think it’s ok to say to a member of staff they has a fat arse!

We don’t know whether Shane Sutton said what he is accused of, but these sorts of things happen in all sorts of businesses.  If you’ve decided it’s time to put your worries about equality to bed once and for all when it comes to complying with employment legislation, then get in touch.  We can arrange an initial review of your existing practices and make sure you don’t end up on your arse!