It is defined by some lawyers as being the piece of EU discrimination legislation that will have the most immediate impact on UK business, yet a new survey suggests that the majority of people are not even aware that it is coming in.
A survey of 300 visitors to HR Gateway’s web site revealed that just under four out of ten had no idea the legislation was coming on December 2nd, more than the combined figure claiming that their organisation was ready or partially ready for the changes.
When asked, ‘Is your organisation ready for religious and sexual orientation discrimination legislation expected on December 2nd?, only a quarter said ‘yes’. More than one in five (22.5 per cent) said ‘no’ while 13.5 per cent said ‘partially’.
However, the majority of respondents answered ‘What legislation?’ suggesting that the majority of people visiting the site were unaware of the EU Equal Treatment Framework Directive driven legislation to be implemented next month.
The legislation is question is from the EU Equal Treatment Framework Directive which was formally adopted by the European Council in 2000. It requires member states to outlaw discrimination in the workplace on grounds of sexual orientation and religion or belief by 2 December 2003.
Commenting on the results, Helen Marsh from Stonewall, the campaign group for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, said that the figures did not surprise her. While some larger employers are doing well and understand the problems, other firms, especially smaller employers, worried her:
"We are working with a range of large firms and they are doing some good work, but it is the others and the smaller employers that the message needs to get through to. There has been very little coverage in the trade press.
"We are also still receiving the same level of complaints about discrimination in the workplace and so if employers were preparing you would have thought that this would have fallen back slightly,” she said.
Commenting on the results, employment lawyer Veronica Dean from Hammonds said that a mixture of legislation overload as well as limited levels of advertising were making the need for employers to educate staff vitally important:
"This legislation will have an immediate impact on employers as we know there is already a group of people with cases that need answering. It is important that employers educate both workers and managers on this issue.
"Also, Christmas parties with too much alcohol are a potential breeding ground for claims under this legislation, so it is important that employers take preventative measures,” she said.