1 Discrimination in Employment

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Lecture 10

1 DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT

There have always been certain groups in society that are discriminated against due to prejudices and preconceptions of the people with whom they have to deal.

The preconceptions are sometimes verbal but often not, and the people holding these preconceptions may well be unaware of the way that they see and judge things and people. The effects of these can be seen in the employment arena.

Definition

Equal opportunities is an approach to the management of people at work based on equal access and fair treatment irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or religious belief.

Women in Employment

Women form a large and increasing proportion of the working population. The idea of women working to support the family is not new.

Pay differentials between men and women have remained an issue, despite equal pay legislation. The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (2006) reported that across all occupations, women earned 77% of male earnings in the same occupational group.

Pregnant workers still seem to be poorly treated. Research published in People Management (28 June 2007) reveals that they are frequently disadvantaged or bullied in ways ranging from being passed over for promotion or training, to not being given rest breaks, to being pressured to over-perform to make up for lost time.

Ethnic Minorities in Employment

Black workers are particularly at risk because not only their customs and practices often differ from those of the indigenous population (UK population), although this decreases over time, but their colour clearly identifies them as being different.

Immigrant labour in the UK was identified as being heavily concentrated in less desirable, non-skilled, manual jobs, causing Smith (1974) to remark that the composition of the minority workforce was ‘markedly different, by type of job, from the total work force’.

Reasons cited for adopting positive action plans on racial equality include:

a) Good HR practice in attracting and retaining the best people b) Compliance with the Codes of Practice which are used by Employment Tribunals c) Widening the recruitment pool for access to more labour d) Other benefits – image of company, identification with customers, geographic location Disabled people in Employment

Walker (1986) notes that disabled people have always experienced higher levels of unemployment, have greater difficulty in returning to work and therefore often remain unemployed for longer periods.

Stereotyping of disabled persons includes:

a) Long periods off work for medical reasons
b) Accident proneness
c) Poor skill levels
d) Difficulties adjusting the work environment for wheelchair access and other needs e) Negative image to customers who feel awkward in their presence f) Stereotyping disabled roles and capabilities (lift attendants, switch board operators, assembly tasks)

Age Diversity in Employment

The main protection for the older employee is against redundancy, for which they will be financially compensated, but there is no protection for them in seeking fresh employment, training or promotion.

The voluntary Code of Practice on age diversity in Employment (1999) has some impact on the number of recruitment advertisements specifying or implying age limits (Torrington et al, 2002).

The fact is that older workers:

a) Have experience and skills in the job that may counteract any age-related loss of performance b) Tend to stay in the job, reducing turnover and associated costs, have better attendance and disciplinary records c) Do experience loss of strength and stamina.

d) Experience some loss of mental functioning or other cognitive functions e) Are no more likely to be flexible /inflexible in relation to learning and change than younger employees f) Do not cost more as age-based reward systems are replaced by performance-based...
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