New Acas guidance on asking and answering questions about workplace discrimination
Acas has recently published some new guidance, 'Asking and answering questions about discrimination at work'.
This follows the repeal of the statutory questionnaire procedure in 2014 which was then followed by some non-statutory guidance published by Acas, 'Asking and responding to questions of discrimination in the workplace', which was subsequently withdrawn.
The guidance makes it clear that legally there is no obligation on an employer to answer an employee's questions about discrimination, but that the employer should do so to try and resolve the problem and avoid possible legal action. The guidance also points out that if the employee or worker makes an employment tribunal claim, the judge could use the employer's answers as evidence and, if no response was provided, the tribunal could also take that into account.
The guidance reminds employers that they must not treat employees less favourably as a result of them having sent questions by, for example, refusing to promote them or failing to invite them to social events that they would usually be invited to, as this could be victimisation.
The guidance sets out suggested steps for an employee who believes they may have been discriminated against in the workplace, along with guidance on the information they should provide in writing to their employer and the types of questions they could ask in order to help establish whether discrimination has taken place. There is also guidance to explain how employers should consider and respond to employees' questions concerning workplace discrimination, and what might or might not amount to unlawful discrimination.
Acas sets out an example statement and questions concerning potential discrimination for an employee to send to their employer, and an example employer's response.