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Discrimination Laws: What Might be Next?

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 13 Sep 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Workers' Rights Business Organisation

So far a series of legislation that started in the last half of the Twentieth Century in the United Kingdom has outlawed discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of race and religion, sex and sexuality, disability and age. Is there anything else left to legislate against?

Does Selection Imply Discrimination?

In a society where you have to compete for jobs, there is an inherent selection process to go with it. The questions that each employer has to ask are: which of the applicants will be the best person for this job and why? Before anti-discrimination legislation existed, choices such as not choosing a woman because she might get pregnant, seemed like sensible and understandable business decisions. At least, they were for the employer.

Legislation to remove those choices, and others that would be equally abhorrent to us today, has forced employers to look more at the skills they need to fill a particular post, and that can only be good for the company and the employee. But many business owners feel that enough is enough and that Anti-discrimination Legislation is often used by employees who have a grudge against a company, and as an excuse to cause trouble for the employer.

Increasing Red-Tape

Particularly in small businesses, the impact of each new piece of legislation is more work for the employer, and they wonder what will be the next issue to be included into the anti-discrimination. Even in terms of governmental structure, moves have been made, in the form of a new body in the UK, to cater for the expansion of discriminatory elements that has already happened.

The Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) was formed in October 2007 and combined the work that three bodies were doing previously, the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). The new organisation will also have an expanded remit to take on all human rights issues and seems a more pragmatic approach than forming a new body each time a new element is taken on.

Smokers' Rights

Smokers in the UK might complain they are being discriminated against. The 'fag breaks' are now longer as smokers have to make a journey outside their workplace, and there are mumblings of unfairness from the non-smokers who do not get so many breaks. Will employers begin to shy away from taking on smokers on the grounds that they will get fewer work hours from them, and because there are extra costs in terms of shelters and cigarette bins?

It doesn’t take a leap of imagination to see smokers calling for anti-discrimination legislation, but it seems unlikely that would succeed. The anti-smoking pressure group ASH produced a survey back in 2002 that demonstrated that two-thirds of workers supported anti-smoking measures, so it is unlikely that any government would try to put in place legislation that would be that unpopular.

Anti-Fat Laws

In the United States, anti-fat discrimination is becoming an issue, although it is referred to as 'discrimination due to physical size', with a number of cities and states passing laws that ban discrimination based on height or weight. San Francisco was the first, in 2000, but side stories, such as a ballet school being taken to task for not accepting large or short pupils, have grabbed the headlines, rather than any beneficial effects in the workplace.

Currently there is a backlash in the United States with many legislators re-considering anti-sizist legislation. The main point seems to be that weight is an issue of personal choice, which is not the case for any other traits that have been legislated against, with the exception perhaps of religion. Could size be the next subject of anti-discrimination legislation in Britain?

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
My coworker wrote on the procedure work sheet "the dumb ass", swearing about me. That made me upset. So, I communicated to the manager in vain. He just asked me "what you wanna me do" So, what can I do now?
Celio - 13-Sep-17 @ 5:30 AM
Been taken late lunches at work for the last 3 weeks,working as part of a bore hole drilling team boss comes in to canteen swearing shouting you should f#####g still be working and have you f#####g lunch when everyone has there's but I can't as working part of a team when concrete is flowing no stopping
Drew - 14-May-17 @ 6:51 AM
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