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The Dangers of Equal Opportunity Training
Equalities training is usually a good way to promote a harmonious working environment and reduce the risk of a legal claim. However a recent Employment Tribunal Judgment highlights the risks of providing this training in an insensitive way.
The employer, a registered provider, provided equality training as part of its induction process. So far, so good. However, during the training session, it adopted the risky strategy of actively inviting attendees to call out terms that might be considered offensive, the aim being to make the point that terms considered inoffensive by one person may offend others. Perhaps predictably, highly objectionable terms of racial abuse were then called out and also used by the trainer, deeply upsetting the Claimant who then resigned and successfully claimed unlawful racial harassment.
If done well, equalities training can be extremely important and can help an employer defend a discrimination claim. Section 109 of the Equality Act 2010 provides for a defence where an employer can show it took ‘all reasonable steps’ to avoid an act of discrimination taking place. Providing appropriate training is likely to be a reasonable step. However if you do this, do make sure the training is delivered in an appropriate way!