IN OCTOBER 2010, the Equality Act was introduced amid a hue and cry from employer groups, lobbyists and tabloids claiming that it would open the floodgates for bogus harassment and discrimination cases against well meaning employers.
Several amusing and unlikely scenarios were paraded around including an employer who may be prosecuted under the Act for asking an interviewee with a runny nose about their health and providing mothers who worked late every day of the week with grounds for indirect gender discrimination if it could be proved that women carry a larger burden of childcare in the home.
One year on, the introduction of the Equality Act did not create the myriad of problems anticipated for employers; Mothers did not start breastfeeding their babies during their Monday Morning meetings and there was no avalanche of litigation by disgruntled minority groups. Like the Millennium bug the naysayers achieved little but someone out there probably made a lot of money while the rest of society continued business as usual.
Accountants are always looking for loopholes in legislation that they can use to their advantage; it may only be a matter of time before someone does so with the Equality Act. In truth, this may not be necessary because with its perceived Old Boy Network, the Profession is particularly vulnerable to headline-grabbing lawsuits.
Like the Equality Act, the Profession fall short of actually tackling gender discrimination.Creating a more open profession with equality in the workplace will help to mitigate these problems and may prevent similar law suits in the future.
Jonathan Lamptey is a chartered accountant and director of business consultancy Finance for Non Finance
Contact him at Jonathan@financefornonfinance.co.uk
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