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Creating a workplace without discrimination


Creating a workplace without discrimination

We are making progress as a society to recognise when discrimination occurs and calling it out but more can be done, writes Deborah Evans...



We are seeing and hearing far more in the media about when individuals are treated inappropriately. However, we know from posts we see on the Women in Pharmacy Facebook group that members of the group still face situations that could be described as discrimination, whether this is intentional or not.

As an employer and professional engaging with the public, it is critical that you create an environment where you protect the safety and welfare of both your team and patients and work within the law. This includes ensuring that no one is unfairly discriminated against in your workplace.

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees because of their sex. This means sex discrimination against men is just as unlawful as sex discrimination against women.

Also, it is unlawful for a woman to discriminate against another woman because of her sex and for a man to discriminate against another man because of his sex. Additionally, individuals cannot be discriminated by any of the eight other protected characteristics which include marriage and partnership, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity, age, disability, religion or belief and race.

As a busy independent contractor, it can be difficult to keep up to date with employment legislation and discrimination can still occur in the workplace, frequently because of a lack of familiarity with the law rather than a deliberate breach. If you’re a manager or employer in an independent business, you’re unlikely to have a human resources (HR) function to directly support you and so how can you ensure you are aware of what constitutes discrimination?

Not only must you avoid breaking the law but your staff deserve to be treated fairly and equally.


What is workplace discrimination?

Direct discrimination occurs in the workplace when an employee is treated unfavourably because they have different characteristics to others and this can be because of their gender, sexuality, race, religion, pregnancy, maternity and disability. Examples of direct discrimination include:


·       two employees have the qualifications to go on an accuracy checking course but you make a decision to pass one over because they have recently had a baby. Your intentions might be good as you have concerns that they may find combining a family demanding with the training. However, this is direct discrimination.

·       you need to make one member of your team redundant and you make the decision to make the person redundant because they are older and nearing retirement age, again concerned about increasing workload.

·       you have a worker who has episodes of clinical depression and you fail to make adjustments in their working week to allow for their treatment and support for their mental wellbeing.

·       a female employee has requested part-time working and you reject a request without due consideration.

·       you reject a candidate for a new role because they have no religion and this does not fit with your own religious beliefs.

·       you only employ pharmacists who will provide a contraception service regardless of their religious beliefs (GPhC guidance on religion, personal values and beliefs).


Indirect discrimination occurs when you treat someone the same as everyone else but your treatment of the person has a negative effect on them because of their protected characteristic.

For example, you have a policy in your pharmacy that everyone can be asked to work in the early evenings at short notice. This places one of your employees at a disadvantage as she has young children and is unable to find childcare at short notice.


What can you do to ensure you’re not discriminating?

Discrimination may be caused by you as an employer or by other workers and you have a responsibility to be proactive to create an environment and culture where individuals are protected.

To do this, take the following steps:

  • educate yourself and your team about discrimination.
  • encourage individuals to respect each other’s differences and that of your customers.
  • respond quickly to any evidence or complaints of inappropriate behaviour.
  • develop a workplace policy that prohibits discrimination.
  • train supervisors and managers on how to respond to discrimination in the workplace and keep this training up to date.
  • make sure you have a workforce policy on discrimination and that everyone knows about it and it is properly enforced.
  • review the policy regularly to ensure that its effectiveness is maintained.
  • if ever in doubt, seek professional advice, ideally ahead of any issues arising.


There are some useful resources available (below) and you may be part of a trade association or membership body which has employment advisors.


Finally, this is not just about adhering to the law. Creating a workplace where individuals, women and men, feel safe and can be the best they can be is positive for everyone involved and will help drive business performance too.



Deborah Evans is managing director of Pharmacy Complete and founder of the Women in Pharmacy Facebook community.




Picture: fizkes (iStock)

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