In this article
After reading the Care Certificate standard 4 – equality and diversity, you should be able to:
- Understand what equality and diversity mean
- Recall the 9 protected characteristics
- Know the types of unacceptable behaviour in the workplace
- Know where to make a report.
The Care Certificate Standards detail what you must achieve and be assessed against to meet these learning outcomes.
If you have any concerns or queries, you should discuss these with your employer and/or assessor.
What does equality and diversity mean?
Despite often being used interchangeably to mean the same thing, equality and diversity are actually two different concepts.
Equality refers to a state of an individual being equal in their status, rights or opportunities. Contrary to popular belief, it does not mean treating everyone in exactly the same way as this would not result in everybody having a positive outcome.
For example, equality means giving people a chance to gain employment in an equal way. This may lead to someone with a disability having the location of an interview changed to accommodate their needs or having more time in the interview to understand what is being asked of them. This is equality because it gives that individual the same chance of getting the job as someone who does not have a disability.
Diversity refers to understanding that everyone is a unique individual and recognising the things, which make them different. Such differences may be in race, ethnicity, age, ability, religion, political beliefs or sexual orientation.
Diversity is also closely related to tolerance; when a society is considered to be diverse, this means that despite differences between individuals, everyone is tolerant of everyone else, leading to a harmonious environment in which people are able to become an equally valued member of their society.
What is discrimination?
Discrimination will be considered at much greater length in a later unit but here, it is important to know that discrimination refers to treating someone in a different way, usually negatively, because of an individual characteristic such as age, disability, religion or marital status.
For example, a person may not be allowed to enter a theatre in a wheelchair because the theatre does not have anywhere for them to be able to sit safely. Another example may be a person not being allowed to rent a property because of their religion or race or someone not being offered a promotion at work because they are pregnant.
How can I tell whether I personally discriminate against someone?
Discrimination is not always obvious and therefore it is not always easy to identify even for someone to try and identify if they themselves are being discriminatory. There are so many ways and so many aspects of life in which discrimination can take place that this simply serves to make identifying inadvertent discrimination even more difficult.
One of the most effective ways for a person to identify if they are being discriminatory, either accidentally or otherwise is for them to be self-aware. Self-awareness, in this context refers to individuals being aware of their own belief system and values and how these may affect their subsequent behaviour.
Being aware of their belief system and values can make someone more self-aware and therefore less likely to act in a discriminatory manner.
In order for someone to try and identify what their beliefs and values are, people may ask themselves some of the following questions:
- Where do my beliefs and values come from?
- What do I believe is most important in my life and why?
- Do I consider the feelings and actions of others before reacting?
- Do I judge people?
- With what race do I identify?
- What are my beliefs about marriages and relationships between people who are different races and religions?
- What is my view on same-sex marriage?
- Do I have a religion and do I practice? Why or why not?
- Does my community have a shared religion?
- What culture do I best identify with?
- How much do I know about other cultures?
- What is my political affiliation and why?
- What are my views on equal rights?
- Who do I believe is the same as me?
- Who may I have passed my values and beliefs on to?
What are the barriers to equality and diversity?
Whilst there is undoubtedly more awareness of equality and diversity within contemporary society, there are still barriers which exist, which mean that there are some individuals who are still not being treated in a fair and equal manner and may therefore be subject to discrimination, either inadvertently or deliberately.
Some of the barriers that exist in terms of equality and diversity include:
- Lack of understanding of equality and diversity: When individuals are not aware of what equality and diversity is and how it applies to them, they are more likely to behave in a way that could be considered as discriminatory, even if this was not their intention. This can apply to anyone within society including those people who work in roles where knowledge about this should be of a high standard.
- Prejudice: Prejudice is a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or on personal experience and so people who behave in a way that is prejudiced are assuming things about others, which may not necessarily be correct and so their behaviour may be misguided. For example someone may be prejudiced against an individual from another religion based only on what they have seen in the media or have heard other people discuss without having first hand experience of it themselves.
- Culture: Cultural barriers can prevent individuals from being treated equally because all of their needs in terms of this aspect of their life may not be taken into account. For example, in a healthcare setting, an individual’s dietary needs may not be taken into account because they are not in line with traditional expectations and their spiritual needs may not be taken into account because their views are very different to those of others.
- Family background and upbringing: Arguably the main source of an individual’s beliefs and values, family and upbringing can be highly influential in how they are able to treat everyone equally. In families where people are tolerant and accepting, everyone is likely to behave in this way because these beliefs will have been instilled in family members from a young age. However, in families where prejudices and discrimination exist already, family members are likely themselves to repeat these behaviours as they are exhibited by influential role models such as parents or older siblings.
- Religion: An individual’s religious beliefs can often dictate how they view others. For example, in some religions, certain foods are not allowed and this may lead an individual to judge others who choose to eat them. Some religions do not approve of homosexuality and this can have a significantly negative impact on the way that some individuals will view this particular group of people.
What are the protected characteristics?
Despite often being used interchangeably to mean the same thing, equality and diversity are actually two different concepts.
- Equality – Equality refers to a state of an individual being equal in their status, rights or opportunities. Contrary to popular belief, it does not mean treating everyone in exactly the same way as this would not result in everybody having a positive outcome.
- Diversity – Diversity refers to understanding that everyone is a unique individual and recognising the things, which make them different. Such differences may be in race, ethnicity, age, ability, religion, political beliefs or sexual orientation.
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 aims to protect people or groups of people who have one or more ‘protected characteristic’.
These protected characteristics are features of people’s lives upon which discrimination, in the UK is now illegal.
The protected characteristics listed in the Act are:
- Sexual orientation
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion and belief
Age and Disability
The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals from discrimination, harassment and victimisation because of their age, which may include them being either younger or older than comparable individuals.
For example, in a place of work, there may be an age limit on individuals being able to train for new roles or for promotions, which would be considered to be direct discrimination based on the grounds of their age.
The Act also protects individuals against discrimination because of the age that someone assumes them to be or because of the age of someone with whom they are associated.
Under the Act, an individual is considered to be disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which:
- Is long-term (usually lasting more than a year)
- Has a substantial effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
What constitutes disability is however, still notoriously hard to define as it can vary greatly between individuals.
The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals from discrimination, harassment and victimisation relating to any aspect of gender reassignment. According to the Act, someone who intends to, starts or has completed a process to change their gender is referred to as being a ‘transsexual’ person.
Prior to this amendment to the legislation, those individuals who were reassigning their gender had to be under some form of medical supervision but this is no longer the case. Therefore, anyone choosing to live as the opposite gender does not need to have undergone any form of medical procedure for the legislation to apply to them.
The legislation maintains that it is discriminatory to treat a transsexual employee less favourably for being absent from work because they are proposing to undergo or are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment.
The law maintains that individuals who choose to cross-dress are not regarded to be transsexual people because their gender change is not permanent and therefore are not specifically protected by the Equality Act 2010. However, they are still protected from harassment and may be able to claim discrimination under any relevant protected characteristic.
Marriage and Civil Partnership
The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals from direct and indirect discrimination and victimisation because of marriage or civil partnership. However, individuals are not protected in the Act from direct discrimination by perception or harassment, although there are some instances in which other legal provisions may be applied.
Civil partnerships have the same legal protection against discrimination as marriage and individuals are also protected by the Act because of their sexual orientation, which is classed as a separate protected characteristic.
Pregnancy and Maternity
The Equality Act 2010 protects an employee against discrimination in relation to pregnancy and maternity in a way that is often regarded as different and stronger than for other protected characteristics. For most of the other characteristics, protection comes about due to ‘less favourable’ treatment whereas for pregnancy and maternity, this is changed to ‘unfavourable’ treatment.
This means that an individual cannot be disadvantaged because of pregnancy or maternity and there is no need for her to compare how she is being treated to someone else.
Specifically, someone cannot be:
- Subject to unfair treatment because of pregnancy or maternity
- Experience disadvantage because of pregnancy or maternity through policies, procedures, rules or practices
- Experience unwanted behaviour because of pregnancy or maternity.
The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals from discrimination, harassment and victimisation because of their race, which is based on different elements that often merge together to mean the same thing:
- Race – a general term for the four other elements cited below
- Colour – a term that refers to a person’s skin such as them being black or white
- Ethnic origin – this may include racial, religious and cultural factors
- National origin – a person’s birthplace and geographical area
- Nationality – the recognised state of where someone is a citizen.
It is important to note that the Act does not protect individuals based on their regional differences, such as someone being a ‘Geordie’ or a ‘Scouser’ as this would not be classed as race. However, in some circumstances, it is possible that individuals may still make a claim of discrimination based on other protected characteristics.
Religion or belief
The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals from discrimination, harassment and victimisation because of religion, religious belief or philosophical belief. It also protects individuals who do not follow specific religions or who have no religious affiliation or belief at all.
The Act defines a religion as being any religion which has a clear structure and belief system, such as Catholicism or Buddhism. A religious belief is an individual’s own faith and how this can affect their life. A philosophical belief must be a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour, which is worthy of respect in a democratic society and which does not conflict with the rights of others.
An individual may be able to make a claim of discrimination if it is shown that the supporting of a political party significantly impacts their life to the point where it may be considered a philosophical belief.
Sex and Sexual Orientation
The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals, both male and female, from discrimination, harassment or victimisation because of their sex. Sex discrimination against men is just as unlawful as sex discrimination against women; it is unlawful for people of the same sex to discriminate against each other.
In relation to sexual harassment, the Act refers to this as ‘unwanted conduct’ of a sexual nature and can also relate to any behaviour that causes distress or humiliation to an individual or one where they have been treated less favourably because they have rejected sexual harassment or been the victim of it.
The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals, both male and female, from discrimination, harassment or victimisation because of their sexual orientation. It applies equally to individuals who are bisexual, homosexual or heterosexual.
In a place of work where someone reveals their sexuality, it must be kept in mind that some individuals may not want this to be revealed to others. Any breach of this wish may be seen as harassment, a breach of data protection laws, where information has been stored as confidential or a breach of the employer’s relevant regulations of policies.
What are the types of discrimination?
Under the Equality Act 2010, there are four main types of discrimination:
- Direct discrimination
- Indirect discrimination
Discrimination does not need to have been taking place for a set amount of time before someone can claim that they have been discriminated against and in a workplace specifically.
Direct discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably than others because of a protected characteristic.
It also occurs when someone is treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic of someone that they are associated with such as a family member, friend or carer. This is referred to within the legislation as discrimination by association.
A third example of direct discrimination is direct discrimination by perception, which means that an individual is assumed to have a protected characteristic, regardless of whether this perception is correct or not. For example, someone may be perceived as being a particular religion or age.
Indirect discrimination is often more difficult to identify than direct discrimination and sometimes it is not intended and comes about due to lack of understanding of the law or a genuine error of judgment about an individual.
Legislation states that indirect discrimination involves a ‘provision, criterion or practice’ that involves all four of the following factors:
- The ‘provision, criterion or practice’ is applied equally to individuals only some of whom share a protected characteristic.
- It has, or will have, the effect of putting those who share the protected characteristic at a particular disadvantage when compared to others who do not share the characteristic within the group.
- It puts or would put an individual at a disadvantage.
- The discrimination cannot be justified.
Harassment is any form of unwanted behaviour and must be related to a protected characteristic or be of a sexual nature. Its intentions must be to violate an individual’s dignity or create for them an environment, which may be described as intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive.
Harassment may be:
- Bullying, inappropriate nicknames, threats, gossip, exclusion, insults, unwanted physical contact, asking intrusive or inappropriate questions and ‘banter’.
- Written, verbal or physical.
- Based on what the victim perceives as harassment not what the harasser sees as the same and whether or not it is reasonable for the victim to feel that they are being harassed.
- Applied to an individual who is harassed regardless of whether they have a protected characteristic or whether they are correctly perceived to have one.
- Apply to an individual who is associated with someone who has a protected characteristic.
- Apply to someone who witnesses harassment because of a protected characteristic, which may then have an impact on their dignity at work or on their working environment. It does not matter if the witness shares the protected characteristic with the individual who is being harassed or not.
Victimisation occurs when an individual experiences what is referred to in law as a ‘detriment’, which is something that causes disadvantage, damage, harm or loss because of one or more of the following:
- Making an allegation of discrimination.
- Supporting a complaint of discrimination.
- Giving evidence relating to a complaint about discrimination.
- Raising a grievance concerning equality or discrimination.
- Anything else with the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, such as raising an employment tribunal claim of discrimination.
Age discrimination is one of the most common forms of discrimination within a workplace. Age gaps between members of staff may now be up to 50 years, as individuals are working much later on into their life.
Features of the Equality Act 2010 relating to age discrimination include:
- Protection against unfair treatment because of actual age, perceived age or the age of someone with whom they are associated.
- Protection against harassment because of age.
- Different treatment because of age being allowed but only in very limited instances.
The Equality Act 2010 gives individuals equal protection in terms of both mental and physical disability.
There are four main kinds of discrimination in relation to disability:
- Direct discrimination: When someone is treated differently and not as well as others because of disability. This can occur because of an individual’s own disability, a perceived disability or their association with someone who has a disability.
- Indirect discrimination: This may occur when a rule, practice or procedure is applied to everyone but disadvantages those individuals who are disabled.
- Harassment: This relates to unwanted behaviour, which is related to an individual’s disability, which causes distress, humiliation or offense to the individual.
- Victimisation: This refers to treating someone unfairly because they have made or supported a complaint about disability discrimination.
Bullying and Harassment
Everyone within a workplace has the right to attend without the fear of being bullied and harassed by their colleagues.
Neither of these brings any benefit to anyone within an organisation and management should tolerate neither. Once a culture where either or both is allowed, then this will likely continue, meaning that individuals will be negatively affected and the organisation will become an intolerable place for some people to work.
- Bullying: This refers to offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour towards an individual. It may also mean the misuse of power to undermine, humiliate or injure a victim.
- Harassment: This refers to a more general unwanted form of conduct affecting the dignity of individuals within the workplace (or elsewhere). It could be related to a protected characteristic such as age or disability and may be either persistent or one-off in nature. Actions that are considered to be harassing will be viewed as demeaning and unacceptable by the victim.
Bullying and harassment are used to make people feel anxious and humiliated and, sadly, in a lot of instances, the intentions will be achieved. They can make individuals also feel isolated and degraded and some individuals may even find that they get themselves into trouble by trying to retaliate.
Bullying and harassment are closely linked to poor levels of production, loss of self-confidence and illness from work to a point where some people may even resign rather than having to face the environment in their workplace.
Some examples of bullying or harassing behaviour can include:
- Spreading malicious rumours about an individual.
- Insulting someone either verbally or in writing particularly in relation to a protected characteristic.
- Mocking or demeaning someone.
- Deliberately setting someone up to fail.
- Giving information about an individual to people who do not need to know or who are not allowed to know.
- Unfair treatment.
- Domineering supervision.
- Misuse of power.
- Unwelcome sexual advances, for example standing too close to someone.
- Making threats about job security with no foundation to do so.
- Undermining an individual.
- Preventing progression within an organisation such as never offering opportunities for promotion or training.
Victimisation refers to the way in which a person is negatively treated in response to them having made a complaint under the Equality Act 2010 or when a complaint is going to be made or when the individual assists in a complaint made by someone else.
Anyone within a workplace is protected against victimisation under the legislation unless they have acted in bad faith by making false accusations against someone or have given false information. However, if it transpires at a later date that information that was thought to be true at the time, but was later proven false, an individual is protected.
Examples of victimisation can include:
- Bullying and harassment by colleagues or management.
- Being denied a promotion.
- Being demoted.
- Being dismissed from employment.
- Being refused further contract work.
A stereotype is a fixed set of beliefs about an individual or group, which may or may not accurately reflect reality. Stereotyping is very easy to do; people make assumptions and judgments about other people all of the time and this is, in a positive sense, thought to provide some kind of protection to them.
For example, if an individual were to be followed down a dark alley by a man with a hood up, the stereotype that he was an attacker would mean that the individual would seek a quick means of escape and so protect themselves from potential harm.
However, when stereotyping is carried out casually then this can lead to difficulties for individuals or groups who others may belief conform to certain behaviours, which may not be true.
Some examples of stereotypes include:
- Older people have dementia.
- Only females can be nurses.
- Young people’s mental health problems come from drug misuse.
Stereotypes can be damaging to individuals and may lead them to experience prejudice and discrimination when they are based on completely inaccurate and offensive assumptions.
Prejudice refers to a preconceived, usually negative, opinion about an individual or group that may not be based on reason or on actual experience. Prejudice is often founded on inaccurate stereotypes and is another factor that can lead to discrimination.
In a workplace, prejudice may present in the form of exclusion of an individual or overt hostility towards them where the person who is being prejudiced often feels that they are in some way superior to the victim. This can lead to a disruption of the harmony within a workplace and, like stereotyping, can cause a negative working culture to develop.
The effects of unacceptable workplace conduct on mental health
It does not take long for the toll of unacceptable workplace conduct to start negatively impacting an individual’s mental health. One in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lifetime and many of these will be because of difficulties in the workplace.
Workplace stress is thought to account for approximately 15.4 million lost working days (www.britsafe.org) each year and in total about 57% of all working days lost to ill health coming about because of stress and anxiety.
Stress in the workplace is thought to come about due to several factors:
- Low levels of control.
- Lack of support from management and colleagues.
- Poor relationships.
- The demands of the job.
As well as this, unacceptable workplace behaviour is thought to be a key cause of workplace stress, which can subject an individual to related anxiety problems and those related to depression.
What are the responsibilities of an employer?
The overarching responsibility for employers in terms of equality and diversity in the workplace is to ensure that there is no element of discrimination in any part of their practice and that their organisation is fully compliant with the content of the Equality Act 2010.
The key points of the Equality Act 2010 for employers include:
- Ensuring that any health-related questions that are asked before an offer of employment is given are directly related to an individual’s ability to carry out a role that is essential to the job.
- Making reasonable adjustments for an employee with a disability if the employee makes them aware of the disability, asks for reasonable adjustments to be made or it becomes clear that the individual is having difficulty with their job or has to take time off because of their disability.
- An employer can take ‘positive action’ to help employees if they are at a disadvantage because of a protected characteristic and/or if they are underrepresented within the organisation. However, the employer must be able to give evidence that their positive action is not discriminating against others.
- Men and women in full or part-time employment have a right to equal pay, which means that pay, benefits and terms must be equal when equal work is being carried out.
- Employers have a legal responsibility to prevent and eliminate discrimination and to ensure that they are actively promoting opportunities for equal opportunities.
Strictly speaking, the Equality Act 2010 does not place any specific responsibilities on employees in terms of how they can ensure that they are behaving in an equal and diverse manner.
However, employees will be expected to behave in a way that is non-discriminatory and they are also expected to actively challenge any instances where it is believed that discrimination is taking place or has already taken place.
The employer should have clear policies in place which enable employees to see what is expected of them in terms of equality and diversity and who the employee should contact should they believe that they have experienced discrimination or they have seen it experienced by someone else.
Reporting bullying and harassment
Under the Equality Act 2010, individuals are protected against unwanted behaviour such as bullying and harassment in the workplace.
However, as a lot of individuals find out, the law concerning this when a complaint is made is not as straightforward as they would perhaps prefer.
Also, it is important to note that the law does not protect the following individuals:
- People who are working illegally
- People who are genuinely self-employed.
ACAS recommends the following steps if an individual feels as though they are being subject to bullying and harassment:
- Speak to someone who will understand the problem, such as someone in HR
- Speak with a union representative
- Keep a diary of all incidents
- Keep any evidence such as emails.
If a formal complaint is made, employers should have a grievance procedure, which will be referred to when the complaint is being assessed.
Some organisations may even have special procedures for dealing with bullying or harassment. After an investigation is carried out, a resolution should come about with agreement from both the employer and the employee, such as an agreement to mediation.
A mediator is an independent third party who is trained and accredited and acts as someone who can help two people who are involved in a dispute to come to an amicable agreement.
On the other hand, the employer may decide to take disciplinary action against the bully or harasser in accordance with their disciplinary policy. This policy will also likely be used against an individual who makes an unfounded allegation of bullying or harassment.
Reporting discrimination and the steps to do so are almost identical to those which should be carried out in response to bullying and harassment.
However, a key difference is that individuals who feel that they are being discriminated against must ensure that what they think is discrimination matches the definition provided by the law, which, in this instance, would be the Equality Act 2010, specifically, Part 5.
Individuals who feel that they have been discriminated against will only be protected by law if the discrimination is because of a protected characteristic.
What to do if you are unhappy with the outcome
If, despite all of an individual’s efforts to prevent bullying and harassment, it still continues, individuals should take advice about their legal rights in this situation. If the harassment is classed as unlawful under the Equality Act 2010, individuals are able to make a claim to an employment tribunal.
An employment tribunal expects individuals to have first tried to resolve the situation with their organisation and to have kept any records pertaining to this.
If an individual has resigned due to bullying and harassment and has tried all other ways of resolving the situation, a claim for constructive unfair dismissal can only be made by individuals who have worked for their employer for 24 months or more.