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National Minimum Wage (NMW) 2019

Call Issued To Make Class Discrimination Unlawful

September 23rd, 2019

The government is now being urged to make discrimination on the basis of class unlawful, in the same way that discrimination based on gender, race and disability is against the law, with the TUC calling for new measures to be put in place to tackle class discrimination in the workplace.

A new study from the organisation shows that graduates from wealthier backgrounds are more than twice as likely to enjoy a starting salary of £30,000 than people from working class backgrounds – which means that the country is wasting both skills and talent as a result.

Without anti-discrimination laws in place, people from working class backgrounds will continue to meet with unfair barriers in both the workplace and society as a whole, it was argued. As such, a legal duty should now be introduced and placed on public bodies to ensure that tackling all forms of inequality where class and income are concerned is a priority.

Unfair barriers that certain demographics face include employer bias during job applications and interviews, as well as more indirect forms of discrimination like unpaid internships being used as a gateway into employment.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general-secretary, said: “If you’re from a working-class family, the odds are still stacked against you. Everyone knows that getting that dream job is too often a case of who you know, not what you know. I want to issue a challenge to politicians. It’s high time we banned discrimination against working class people.

“This country is wasting some of our best skills and the talent. And if we don’t get change fast, it’s not just workers who will lose out – Britain will. Let’s have a new duty on employers to stamp out class prejudice once and for all.”

The TUC report also looked at other forms of disadvantage that working class people have to face, as well as class discrimination, including low pay and how much more of an impact austerity has had on such households.

To help counter the class privilege that still exists in Britain even now, the TUC says that stronger workplace rights are necessary, with every worker afforded the freedom to meet with a union at their workplace. Stronger rights for workers to encourage them to speak up about pay and conditions via trade unions should also be implemented.

The TUC is also campaigning for a new deal for workers to help protect the millions of people in working class jobs that have seen their pay flatline in the last ten years. In contrast, people in the highest paid jobs and earning over twice the median UK wage (more than 326 an hour) have seen their pay increase by £1.26 an hour – a rise of four per cent.

Analysis by the TUC shows that working class jobs have changed and retail and care workers are now the biggest occupations for people earning under the median wage (£12.70 an hour in 2018).

Everyone has the right to be treated fairly at work and while applying for a new job. However, if you feel as though you’ve been treated unfairly or differently because of some kind of personal characteristic, whether that’s your gender, age, race, sexual orientation, disability or religious beliefs, then get in touch with us here at Lennon’s Solicitors today.

Before you do anything, you should check that the problem you’re facing is considered discrimination under the law. Generally speaking, it’s best to try and solve a problem informally before pursuing other avenues, particularly if you want to continue working for your current company.

Start to gather as much evidence as you can as soon as you can, keeping any messages received relating to the issue and writing down a few notes about what happened. 

Your course of action will be determined by the situation you’re in. You can make an informal complaint either in writing or by talking to your employer, or be more formal in your approach and raise a grievance.

You could also consider settling, which is where you sit down to negotiate with your employer in order to reach an agreement, or use a trained mediator to help both parties reach an agreement before legal action is taken. Legal action is usually a last resort.

Bear in mind, as well, that if you do take action about discrimination in the workplace or, indeed, anywhere else for that matter and are treated unfairly as a result, this is known as victimisation. You are protected by law against this and you can add it to your current claim.

If you do find yourself considering legal action, remember that there are strict time limits in place for doing so. You’ll need to get in touch with an independent organisation within three months minus a day from the date that you were discriminated against, known as early conciliation.

If you’ve left or been asked to leave your place of work, you’ll still be able to take action regarding the discrimination. If you’re out of work, keep a note of any wages you’ve lost as you may be able to claim compensation – and this includes expenses for job hunting as well, such as travel to interviews.

From a business perspective, encouraging greater awareness and understanding of the protected characteristics can only be beneficial, since it can help drive down the chances of complaints and disciplinary action, while avoiding the associated costs and disruption to the company as a whole.

This can also help attract and retain the top talent in a particular field, helping to give business reputations a big boost as well. And team spirit will improve as well, no doubt, since employees that are discriminated against are far less likely to be productive and motivated – which will have a negative impact on the rest of the workforce as a whole.

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