Does ‘gingerism’ really exist? – HR News

A Premier League manager has recently joked that the reason why his name is not linked with the bigger clubs is because he’s ginger, calling it “gingerist”.

It may have been a flippant comment, but some employers reading this joke may find themselves considering whether ginger haired people are protected from discrimination at work.

Not explicity mentioned in the Equality Act – but protected anyway

Discrimination laws cover a wide range of ‘protected characteristics’. These include: disability; age; sex; religion or belief; race; sexual orientation; pregnancy and maternity; gender reassignment and marriage. To claim discrimination, the person generally needs to possess the protected characteristic or be associated with a person that does.

Having red hair is not explicitly protected under the Equality Act 2010.

However, employer’s advice service Peninsula explains that being ginger has the potential to be linked to a person’s race or ethnic origin.  People of a Celtic origin or from particular countries are far more likely to have red hair than an English person. Where the individual is subjected to less favourable treatment because they are ginger, they may therefore be able to claim discrimination under the grounds of race or ethnic origin.

It will be for the employee to show that their treatment is connected to the protected characteristic. This does not mean that the employer can sit back and let “gingerist” or any other discriminatory behaviour take place. They should be taking action to prevent all discrimination from occurring in their business.


‘Ginger jokes’ – what’s the score?

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It’s important that employers take action to prevent discriminatory jokes being repeated or shared by staff.

While ‘racist’ jokes are seen as socially unacceptable, it seems that ‘ginger jokes’ have become accepted into popular culture.  A quick online search reveals specialist online sites and whole areas of Pinterest and Reddit have popular threads on the topic.  Many of these so-called ‘jokes’ would be considered highly offensive if applied to almost any other protected characteristic.

It’s easy to dismiss a joke about a person being ginger as ‘banter’ or shop talk but this is an area where employers could find themselves facing an expensive employment tribunal claim.  Employers should therefore apply the same rules as they would to other inappropriate jokes in the workplace.

Workplace jokes can be classed as harassment where they are related to a protected characteristic and they violate an individual’s dignity or create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Harassment does not just come in the form of spoken jokes; it covers written text, posters, signs and even office property such as mugs.


Employers should educate their workforce

Informing and training all staff on what is and isn’t acceptable to say or do in the workplace is a must.

This doesn’t only apply to the treatment of individuals with red hair, but to other types of discrimination, too.  Having a policy which outlines the rules on discrimination is essential to ensure the rules are laid out and the employee can refer back at any point. In addition, however, training should also be provided using the policy as a base and going on to explain how this applies in the workplace and what the possible consequences are if discrimination does take place.

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Employers also need to prevent discrimination playing a part in any internal or management decisions, as said to be the case by the Premier League manager. Discriminatory factors should not be used by managers when making decisions on issues such as promotions or when deciding who opportunities should be offered to. Instead, decisions should be based on objective factors that are necessary for the business decision to be made and can be objectively assessed, for example, factors such as skills, qualifications and disciplinary records. Employers should train managers on how to carry out decisions properly and what should and shouldn’t be taken in to account.



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