Building firms are among those turning to a North East HR specialist in order to train staff around what they can - and can't say - when it comes to "legal tripwires" like people's gender.
And the company, Darlington-based Outsourced HR LTD, has warned companies that fall foul of equality law could face bills of almost £70,000 if they fail to create an inclusive workplace that reflects the modern climate.
Sasha Warr founded the company 13 years ago, having held senior HR management roles with global giants Toshiba and Renault. She said companies that don’t train their staff risk suffering “colossal damage” both financially and to their brand if they fail to create an inclusive workplace.
“Companies are incredibly nervous about the current climate, as there are now so many potential pitfalls and legal tripwires that could quickly undo the hard work people have invested into a successful business to build it up,” said Sasha.
“Often managers don’t know or fully understand the law around topics like gender, and they can understandably feel overwhelmed by it all, as it is all just so fast-changing. Also, companies who are embracing the changing landscape of inclusion and diversity, attract and keep the best staff.
“They also don’t know where to turn for advice, and that’s where we can step in and guide them through what, at times, can feel like a bit of a labyrinth.”
The team of Sasha, along with fellow HR consultants Rebecca Iles and Colette Farrell, have over 60 years of combined experience advising many international household names. Crucially, they’ve never lost an employment tribunal.
And their vast experience in helping companies avoid big payouts has helped the company attract plenty of interest in the firm’s new Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit package.
“We have had everybody from construction firms to GP practices asking for our help to advise their staff on everything from language and pronouns to behaviour, and ensuring your staff are well trained and compliant is a vital step that can even pay-off if the worst does still happen,” added Rebecca.
“If a company failed to take the responsible step and train their staff, there could potentially be an uplift in the payout if they did lose a tribunal and if a company doesn’t have a strong set of published policies, then that will likely be frowned upon by an employment judge.”
Outsourced HR LTD estimate that a ruling of discrimination could, on average, cost a business a staggering £27,000.
However, that’s just a drop in the ocean when it comes to the final bill.
An award for unfair dismissal could set the firm back a further £14,000 while the company may also have to pay an additional £11,000 for injury to feelings.
And with legal fees potentially reaching around £15,000, that could mean a total payout of £67,000 – a fee Sasha insists can be avoided by partnering with the right experts and securing training she insists makes a complex subject easy to understand.
“We are not an external provider or a call centre – we instead stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the business and act as an HR partner that allows them to run the business their way with advice that fits around their ethos,” she added.
“We have a down to earth approach, although sometimes a claim is unavoidable, having this training rolled out to senior leaders, managers and employees will make it less likely for someone to claim and with better prospects of success”
“Outsourced HR is here to help time poor business owners navigate this important subject by providing everything they need from policies to training, and that can help reduce any potential tribunal claim payout by 25 per cent.”
The company have also issued three key tips to any employers who are concerned about possible HR issues.
Treat your employees fairly. The goal is to ensure every person feels accepted within the workplace and that they can be their authentic self.
Create your own culture by educating staff using our training and policies on what inclusion and diversity means to you as a business. Live and breathe the culture you set on a daily basis by publishing a calendar with key celebration dates for religious holidays for example. Why not hold cookery demos on some of those days or encourage people to bring food of their culture.
Embracing diversity positively impacts the bottom line. You will attract better candidates, engage loyal staff and positively impact decision making and creativity. Ensure you demonstrate your ‘why’.