Avoid Discrimination in the Workplace

During the last quarter the Small Business Association continued its focused on sensitising members on current affairs issues through several educational fora.

Of note, were presentations by two Human Resource Specialists in the persons of Ms. Donna Hope and Mr. Tony Walcott on two key pieces of legislation, namely, the Employment Sexual Harassment (Prevention) Act 2017-21 and the Employment (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill.

Business owners were reminded of the various incidents of Sexual Harassment in the work environment according to the Act, and the responsibilities of both the employee and employer in such situations. Sexual Harassment according to legislation, was defined as “the use of sexually suggestive words, comments, jokes, gestures or actions that annoy, alarm or abuse a person.” The business owner/manager had a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that the working environment of the firm was conducive for the employee to perform his/her duties free from any form of oppression. The seriousness of this was underscored in the penalties applicable to anyone who contravenes the Act. These penalties include a fine of $5,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both. Businesses were given six months from the commencement of the legislation to put in place the necessary policy provisions to govern the working environment within the firm. This deadline for compliance was in essence, June 15, 2018.

On the issue of the Employment (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill, the various types of discrimination were clearly defined and business owners advised on preventative measures to ensure the avoidance of discriminatory behavior on the job. Types of discrimination included, Direct discrimination, Indirect discrimination, Discrimination arising from disability, Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Victimisation.

The Bill defined discrimination as any situation “when a person directly or indirectly, whether intentionally or not, makes a distinction, creates an exclusion or shows a preference, the intent or effect of which is to subject the other person to any disadvantage, restriction or other detriment”.

The consultants advised the members that the best way to prevent discrimination in employment was to have a well written policy that clearly stated the definition of discrimination and the consequences if an employee failed to act within the policy. The cultural nuances of the Barbadian environment were discussed and business owners were encouraged to strive to maintain a professionally structured and operated workplace in light of the recent legislative improvements. Notwithstanding behaviors and practices that have become engrained in the interactions between the sexes, recent legislation suggests that the employer more so, has to ensure that the organisation is reoriented to reflect a non-discriminatory environment that all persons can feel safe in the workplace.