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Sarah Veale, TUC: Diversity guidance and support

Thursday 06 August 2015

There is confusion about what equality law says and how to apply it in practice. But Acas guidance can help, and gives lots of examples to illustrate best practice.


Sarah Veale CBE

Sarah Veale CBE is Head of Equality and Employment Rights Department at the TUC and a Commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Sarah Veale

I am so pleased that Acas has produced new Equality and discrimination guidance and support for employers and employees, to help them to understand the plethora of legislation that provides protection from discrimination at work. The TUC represents trade unions, who advise and support all their lay representatives in workplaces across Britain. It is very important to us to be able to point unions towards guidance from an organisation like Acas, which is held in very high standing by both unions and employers, as well as producing materials of our own.

Unions regularly report to us on the range of discrimination issues that they deal with in the workplace. Some problems occur more frequently than others. Unions have been deeply concerned recently about increases in incidents of pregnancy and maternity discrimination. This coincides with a new report from the EHRC about pregnancy discrimination at work, that shows that 54.000 women a year suffer pregnancy or maternity discrimination - an increase from the 30,000 reported by an Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) survey in 2005.

Some areas of discrimination are complex and difficult to handle, for example, where one set of rights seems to conflict with another. The most common of these is the tension between the beliefs of some faith groups on issues such as sexual orientation and the rights of working people not to be discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality or their gender.

There is often confusion among both employers and employees and unions about what the law says, or does not say. There is also confusion about how to apply it in practice. Most employers want to do right by their employees but often struggle to work out how when it comes to discrimination - especially indirect discrimination.

The great thing about the Acas guidance is that it is both clear on the law and very helpful on the practical application of it. It gives very good examples to illustrate points - often this is the most effective way to explain a concept. It also provides signposts to other relevant information.

The TUC will ensure that all affiliated trades unions have access to this guidance, to help them with the important work that they do supporting employees.

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