UK companies risk bringing down a tidal wave of discrimination claims on themselves as a new survey finds that more than eight out of ten women feel that that they have been victims of workplace discrimination.
A survey of 957 female employees by employment lawyers Peninsula has found that 82 have felt that they have been discriminated against in the workplace and that almost as many – 78 per cent – would consider taking their employer to a tribunal to seek redress.
Three-quarters complained that they had received e-mails that they considered to be sexist while almost six out of ten said that male colleagues had told them offensive jokes – both of which have in the past been used as grounds for tribunal case.
Peninsula's Peter Done warned that the current high profile of discrimination cases – notably the multi-million pound claims being brought against some City banks – means that "employers are simply waiting for a dam to burst with litigation."
But if the dam is about to break, it has not happened yet, despite the proliferation of specialist lawyers who are often proactive in pushing women to claim for compensation.
While the number of sex discrimination cases increased from 8,128 to 14,284 in the year to April 2004, 7,000 of these claims were around a single dispute over the dress code for workers in jobcentres.
Nevertheless, Peter Done says: "The current culture in which we live at the moment is a filled maze of litigation. "Employers must become aware and accustomed to this generation or face the serious consequences of facing payouts to employees for the simplest of errors.
"For a lot of the old school style employers and more senior members of staff, they would be totally unaware that it is simply ridiculous to make jokes about blondes at work or using sexual innuendos because they feel it is amusing and simply acceptable," he added.