Hrmagazine.co.uk has reported an interesting survey made by a UK employment law firm which analyzed the size of companies and the number of employees reporting discrimination issues.
It seems that their survey turned up the fact that “10% of workers in companies with 50 staff or more face barriers due to their gender, compared to 1.3% in micro-businesses (between one and nine employees) and small companies (between 10 and 49).”
“Additionally, in micro-businesses and small employers the number who have witnessed age discrimination is almost zero, compared to 20% in medium-sized employers and larger.”
One partner of the surveying firm opined that when a company grows rapidly it may tend to focus less on HR issues and more on things like finance. Moreover, she said, “If you’ve grown from a small business of fewer than 10 people, it can go from feeling like a family to something less personal.”
So is small better? Does this survey ring true in the US?
The survey is hardly scientific, but assuming the correctness of its general results, and assuming the results hold true in the US workplace, what does this mean for employers? Well, first of all, we always preach that preventive law is preferable to dealing with claims and lawsuits down the road. Its cheaper, less distracting and supports the old adage that “an ounce of prevention. …”
That said, we would like to repeat some of the “tips” we have provided in the past to avoid problems before they happen. But given these results, accurate or not, it behooves mid-sized employers and employers with growing companies (the ubiquitous start-ups) to follow our common sense tips below more closely (especially numbers 3 and 4).
Ten Tips To Avoid The Pitfalls Of The UK Survey
1. Know the basics of anti-discrimination law, both federal and in your state and city. Be familiar with what a “protected category” is, what you can and cannot ask in an interview, what constitutes harassment, what is retaliation and an “adverse action,” and what to do if an employee complains of discrimination.
2. Know who you hire. Consistent with the anti-discrimination laws, and without violating laws relating to, by way of example, credit and criminal record privacy, and health record confidentiality, do the legal and proper due diligence before you hire someone.
3. If you are big enough, hire a knowledgeable and experienced HR person.
4. If you cannot afford or justify hiring an in-house HR person, make sure that you have someone you can turn to who can identify an employment discrimination issue before it develops or gets worse, be it an attorney, or even an outside vendor who works with employers and know the terrain.
5. Draft and maintain an up-to-date employment manual, which incorporates all of your company’s policies and procedures, and keeps current with the ever-changing law.
6. Make it known to your employees that you have a zero-tolerance anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy in your company, which you will enforce fairly and consistently. And be serious about it.
7. Conduct periodic training programs for all managers and employees in anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies.
8. Keep good and thorough records, and document everything, especially employee performance and evaluations, problems and complaints, and any other matters that may be necessary down the road to support disciplinary measures, termination or reductions in force.
9. Let all employees know where and who to go to register a complaint, so as to give an aggrieved employee recourse if he/she experiences discrimination or feels aggrieved. Treat all employee complaints seriously and confidentially, and investigate all claims promptly and even-handedly.
10. Above all, obey the “Golden Rule” as it applies to the workplace: from the top down, be as honest, transparent and forthright with employees as is consistent with business considerations, keep employees in “the loop,” and maintain a fair and consistent workplace. Employees who feel that they are treated fairly and respectfully are less likely to complain or sue.