Yorkshire County Cricket Club – What lessons can we learn?
In recent weeks Yorkshire County Cricket Club (“YCCC”) has been steeped in controversy over their handling of the allegations of racism made by former player and captain, Azeem Rafiq.
An independent report found that Azeem was the victim of racial harassment and bullying whilst playing for the club, but shockingly YCCC decided to take no further action against any of its employees, players or executives. Its response has attracted widespread criticism and has resulted in several major sponsors cutting ties and senior resignations.
So what lessons can employers take from this? Firstly, the importance of understanding the legal framework.
The Equality Act 2010 (“EA 2010”) underpins the legal framework to promote equal opportunities within the workplace. The EA 2010 applies to any work relationships, and stipulates that employers can be vicariously liable for the actions of their staff. Harassment formed a major part in Azeem’s claim and the right not to be harassed at work extends to all workers, including agency temps, casual staff and contractors.
Under the EA 2010, behaviour will potentially amount to harassment if it is unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of:
– Violating a person’s dignity; or
– Creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.
It is clear that the intent and motives of the harasser are irrelevant, it is up to the victim to decide whether or not an incident is offensive to them personally.
Do you have effective policies in place?
Each employer should try to ensure they promote a safe and inclusive workplace for staff. Equality and diversity is a very difficult and sensitive issue for organisations to manage, but the starting point should be to ensure there is an effective policy in place. Many employers are keen to create an inclusive culture but struggle to institutionalise this into the workplace.
Any policies should reflect best practices and be implemented from the top to the bottom of an organisation. Policies should be clear and concise for example, a bullying and harassment policy should define acts of bullying and harassment to make it clear what is considered unacceptable behaviour. Such as the case with Azeem, unacceptable behaviour is often labelled as workplace “banter”. Irrespective of whether the harasser deemed their comments to be a joke, “banter” is not an accepted defence. To try and negate this attitude, an inclusive language guide detailing what is and isn’t acceptable language could be implemented into a harassment policy.
However you decide to structure your policy, you should always ensure you have a uniformed and consistent approach to dealing with claims of harassment. It is important to be decisive and deal with any complaints quickly and unequivocally.
Do your staff need training?
It is important that every member of staff has a basic understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour, and how they can promote equality and diversity within their workplace. It may be that in order to achieve this staff members need training.
Whatever you decide, here at CG we can help to ensure you are creating a safe and inclusive workplace culture. We can provide staff training, tailor any policies to suit your business needs, or provide guidance on dealing with harassment claims. If you require any further advice or assistance do not hesitate to contact our employment team.