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Equality & diversity in the workplace

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Q & A

Q: Can you manage an employee's underperformance and poor attendance when they have identified they have an underlying medical condition?

A: Yes you can. Firstly, you have to identify as much detail as you can about the medical condition and how this might affect their work performance and attendance. You would likely do this by gaining an Occupational Health Report which would give advice on reasonable adjustments.

The key word there is ‘reasonable’. You have to measure what the business can do within the bounds of reasonableness and look at what solutions can be put in place – in partnership with the employee – to support the employee in work but also balance business needs. As in all management processes the ideal here is to support the employee in work to ensure their success and positive contributions to the business. Some adjustments can be simple in respect of rest breaks, equipment, more training etc. Some might be more complex and require support from organisations such as Access to Work.

Hopefully solutions can be found to help the employee stay in work but where the impact of absence is too great – and you must be able to evidence the impact and effects on the business – or their performance cannot be improved, then you can look to find alternate work (where it exists – there is no obligation to create a role) or look at more flexible working solutions. If there are none and your management processes have been completed, then a result may be dismissal on capability grounds. This is a complex process though and I would urge you to seek guidance from the outset.

Q: Can you ask a candidate about their health in an interview?

A: When it comes to job interviews and the recruitment process, an employer must take particular care regarding job applicants' health and any disability.

This is to prevent employers discriminating against individuals with health conditions. Job offers should be made on the basis of merit.

As a result, there are laws on what and when an employer can ask about an applicant's health.

However, an employer should ask applicants if they need any 'reasonable adjustments', sometimes also called 'access requirements', for any part of the recruitment process.

But an employer should take care not to confuse this as being the same as asking a candidate whether he or she is disabled.

And if an applicant volunteers information about a disability or health condition, interviewers should take particular care not to follow this up with further questions about it or let it influence their recruitment decisions, apart from in very limited and set circumstances.

Q: What is Positive Discrimination? Is it OK to implement?

A: Positive discrimination is generally unlawful in the UK. If an employer where to recruit a person because he or she has a relevant protected characteristic rather than because he or she was the best candidate, this could be considered to be discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

It is also unlawful to set quotas to recruit or promote a specific number or proportion of people with a particular protected characteristic.

There are limited circumstances in which it is lawful to require a job applicant or worker to have a particular protected characteristic, for example where there is a genuine occupational requirement.

Q: Can White, English people bring a case of discrimination under the Race Relations Act of 1976?

A: Yes - The Act protects everyone on the grounds of colour, race, nationality including citizenship, ethnic and national origin.

Q: Do employers have to provide a prayer room at work?

A: Employers are not specifically required to provide a prayer room. However, if a quiet place is available, and allowing its use for prayer would not cause problems for other workers or for the business, the employer should agree to it being used for the purposes of religious observance.

Q: What is the difference between the gender pay gap and equal pay?

A: Whilst both equal pay and the gender gap deal with the difference (disparity) in pay women receive in the workplace, they are two different issues:

  • Equal pay:
    Means that men and women in the same employment performing equal work must receive equal pay, as set out in the Equality Act 2010.
  • Gender pay gap:
    Is a measure of the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across an organisation or the labour market.

In the Britain, there is an overall gender pay gap of 18.1%.

Date & time

Friday 19 October 2018, 12.30pm


Melanie Darlington, Senior HR Consultant, Alcumus


What does equality and diversity mean in UK today? What does ‘equal opportunities’ really mean when it comes to recruitment and promotion? This webinar with Melanie Darlington, Senior HR Consultant at leading risk management company Alcumus, will discuss the pertinent subject of equality and diversity in the workplace. She will cover the types of discrimination and touch on cultural diversity, neurodiversity, gender equality and transgender regulations.

About the speaker

Melanie Darlington

Melanie Darlington is a Senior HR Consultant within the HR Consultancy team at Alcumus PSM. Melanie has over 15 years’ consultancy experience, is a chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) and has a Masters in Human Resource Management. Melanie’s expertise lies with employee relations, employment law, and generalist human resource management. She has proven ability to deliver commercial HR solutions with experience working with global brand organisations and SMEs alike, partnering organisations in education, financial services, health and social care, and FMCG.