A disproportionately large number of sexual discrimination cases are brought in the Midlands, according to freedom of information request data seen exclusively by HR.
Marc Jones, HR and employment law partner for solicitors Turbervilles, lodged separate Freedom of Information Requests to the Ministry of Justice to gain a breakdown of all of the different tribunals that have taken place across England, Scotland and Wales for the years 2015-2016 and 2014-2015.
He found that the Midlands accounted for more than a quarter (27.5%) of the total number of sex discrimination cases over the three years between June 2013 and June 2016. While the population of the Midlands is 10.14 million, the population of England, Scotland and Wales is 65.1 million. Therefore, based on size, the Midlands should only have around one in six cases if they were spread evenly.
“One reason you might see such a spike in cases is group litigation; where employees can join together to bring their case against one employer,” Jones told HR magazine. “However, in the Midlands this is not the case. It could be the case that the Midlands is worse for sexual discrimination, or it could be that lawyers believe they are more likely to succeed with a case there. It’s impossible to tell from the data what the cause might be.”
Charlotte Sweeney, founder and director of Charlotte Sweeney Associates and author of Inclusive Leadership, suggested that regional offices and smaller companies face different challenges to head offices and those based in major cities. “Many companies focus on equality, diversity and inclusion, however this doesn’t always translate into regional offices,” she told HR magazine.
“Smaller companies may not have as much of a focus on this issue as larger ones. For example, some smaller companies don’t have dedicated HR resource so issues such as equality and discrimination may not be handled in the appropriate way. This could lead to unacceptable behaviour in the workplace, resulting in the higher number of claims.”
Alex Arundale, group HR director of Advanced, similarly suggested that the disparity could be the result of individual office culture, where consistency of programmes and approach has not been rolled out. “Organisations should have consistent programmes in place to recruit and develop employees, and train managers to use the programmes,” she told HR magazine. “You should not let any behaviour be excused away, but tackle it directly and with education.”
Jones agreed the focus should be on both policy and training. “First organisations need to ensure they have the right policies in place,” he said. “Then companies need to provide training around those policies. It’s not enough to just have the policy in place if people aren’t aware of it or do not understand it.”
A consistent approach is required, according to Sweeney. “Companies should drive home the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion across their business,” she said. “When it comes to smaller companies there should be more support available to enable them to get on board and understand the benefits and challenges of diversity and inclusion in their business.”
Arundale explained that Advanced has an office in the Mailbox, Birmingham, which uses a recruitment method designed to limit discrimination. “We have [been] recruiting to a new model where we look purely at potential to do the role – no CVs or opportunity for unconscious bias – and this has resulted in a healthy diversity, created without the need for quotas,” she said. “It is now our challenge to ensure that each step of our internal development strategy retains this naturally achieved fairness and equality.”