This is astonishing news from a major retailer in 2018, and a sign of how inadequacy in the area of equality and diversity is still prevalent and can be a very expensive mistake. In our work with organisations like the University of Manchester, who genuinely care about employee wellbeing we can see that they are striving to educate employees.
Primark apprently shows no sign of this and, our research shows that the damage to the bottom line will be far greater than the enormous 47k they have paid out.
As retail companies jostle for space in an already crowded market do they need to recognise that the public at large do care about people’s wellbeing, or, like Primark will they realise when they are writing a check for £47000?
The catalogue of supposed failures is quite extraordinary, but this jumps out in particular..
Judge Lewis said:
“All this may well have been prevented had there been proper systems from the outset to keep confidentiality for transgender employees. We find it shocking that the respondents could not devise a way of keeping the claimant’s legal name off the core allocation sheets and out of the knowledge of her supervisors.”
So how does a major retailer get it so wrong?
The list of requirements given by the tribunal says it all…
adopt a written policy on how to deal with new or existing staff who are transgender or who wish to undergo gender reassignment (This didn’t exist, really?)
include a reference to the existence of a policy of confidentiality in regard to transgender new starters in training materials for managers (In 2018 a major player like Primark does not have this already?)
amend the materials used for equality training of staff, management and HR to include, if not already there, references to transgender discrimination (If not already there, who exactly was defending this fiasco? You have to ask if the tribunal does not know and it was not presented as defence material did it exist at all?)
ensure that transgender discrimination and harassment is referred to in all of its equality and harassment policies, along with any other protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 (Utterly damning, 8 years and it is still not policy at Primark?)
add into the training materials for management on handling grievances (Managers who cannot handle grievances?)
Even giving Primark the benefit of the doubt we question the professionalism and genuine commitment to equality and diversity if these lawful and, lets face it, basic requirements have not been met in the 8 years since the Equality Act 2010 came into force.
This discrimination was so sustained, and involved multiple people and has to be sheer negligence? And yet, instead of admitting failings and committing to setting those failing right, it took 13 months and the person involved having to resort to a tribunal to get justice.
This is sheer arrogance, compounded by the response of Primark to the ruling..
A spokesperson for the retailer, (A spokesperson, who, The CEO?) which is owned by Associated British Foods, said: “Primark is an equal opportunities employer and we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, against any person, on any grounds. All policies relating to our people are based on fair treatment for all, to ensure the promotion and practice of equality of opportunity. (Are they, the evidence says otherwise, have we been ticking boxes?)
“We are extremely disappointed that on this occasion, our usual high standards in implementing these policies were not met and we sincerely apologise to the employee in question for this. (Bilge, if you had high standards this would never have happened would it?)
“We remain fully committed to equal opportunities and are reviewing our internal policies and training to ensure similar issues do not arise in the future.” (We will be in touch shortly so we will see about that won’t we?)
As organisations and businesses we can all take a tick box attitude to this issue, but you may do so at great cost.
Knowing the Law is not the same as understanding the implications in the real world, and in regards people who are Trans*, and their wellbeing, we must go beyond the law to achieve this aim.
Contact us today to explore how you can go beyond ticking boxes, enhance employee wellbeing and be seen as an employer of choice, both to work with and do business with.