With the recent announcement that intelligence service MI5 has teamed up with Britain’s leading gay lobby group, Stonewall, to encourage spies to be open about their sexuality, it seems that stamping out discrimination has become top of the agenda for many organisations. Or are they just paying lip service to gay rights?
Julia Beasley, Partner at top Bristol law firm, Burroughs Day Solicitors, leads a team that specialises in discrimination law. She talks about whether she believes that we really are seeing a change.
“Discrimination in the workplace is a big issue in the UK and, although the legislation has improved dramatically over the past few years, there is still a lot that needs to be done to level the playing field. It is fantastic that big organisations such as MI5 are taking a lead on this but we need to ensure that they are following their grand plans and statements rather than just paying lip service.
“The Burroughs Day Employment Team works to give a voice to those who are treated unfairly at work and to widen access to legal services. Discrimination comes in many forms and whether it’s sexual orientation, age, sex, religion or disability we help clients to feel that justice has been done.
“As well as helping those who have been discriminated against, we also feel that we are helping to eliminate unfair treatment in the workplace. We hope that employers learn valuable lessons from the cases that we take on. If they take on board the issues then they should reach a better understanding of their duties and best practice in relation to diversity. Hopefully this means that future employees do not have to go through what our clients have gone through. However, it is difficult not to be a little cynical about some employers’ efforts. Everyone has an equality policy these days, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they use it.”
Equality is definitely something that is high on the Government’s agenda this year. They have just launched the new Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which will become the one official champion and voice for encouraging diversity and inclusion in the UK. The EHRC champions equality and human rights for all, working to eliminate discrimination, reduce inequality, protect human rights and to build good relations, ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to participate in society.
Burroughs Day Solicitors has been selected as the only law firm in the South West to be a preferred partner in the Government’s new drive and feature in a unique book called Diverse Britain with a foreword from the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. The book aims to promote the initiative and showcase best practice across the UK.
Julia says “when we were asked to take part in this project we were very honoured. We see ourselves as challenging discrimination in the workplace and making a difference to people’s lives. This fits perfectly with the aims of the Diverse Britain project. We are joined in the book by many other organisations including big brands such Tesco, Starbucks, Hewlett Packard and Vodafone. This is another clear indication that organisations are now committed to tackling these issues and promoting equality in their workforces.”
So, in conclusion, Julia is very positive about the future and feels that we will continue to see improvements in the way that employees are treated at work. However, employees should still be wary as a level playing field still seems a long way off.
Burroughs Day Solicitors has an experienced and specialist Employment Team able to deal with all discrimination claims and other employment issues. For 30 minutes’ free information and advice please contact the Employment Team on 0117 929 0333.