The latest in a raft of changes brought about by the Equality Act 2010 came into force at the beginning of April and companies that have not prepared for them could find themselves in trouble.

The aim of the new laws is to help companies to develop a more inclusive workplace and to make sure staff, especially managers, are better prepared to work more flexibly.

From April 5, 2011 companies are allowed to take ‘positive action’ in recruitment, but in order to avoid challenges and tribunals, it is essential that employers understand the difference between ‘positive action’ and ‘positive discrimination’. Positive discrimination is illegal in the UK.

Also from the beginning of April new parents’ right to up to 26 weeks of additional paternity leave and pay come into force, putting pressure on managers to handle situations flexibly and avoid the risk of discrimination. Company policies and processes need to be updated to support the changes.

Other changes include the abolition of the statutory retirement process, a new single public sector general equality duty that will impact on procurement policies, and the right of parents of children under the age of 18 to request flexible working.

Jon Abbott, managing director – ergonomics and safety at Cardinus Risk Management, said, “The introduction of new legislation means significantly higher risks in some areas. Doing nothing is not an option but changing what you do can be a strong competitive advantage; it can cut costs and open new markets.”

To help employers and managers to understand the benefits of equality and a company culture rich in diversity, Cardinus Risk Management and its partner Threshold Initiative have produced a discrimination white paper, Discrimination: understanding and reducing risk, and also devised an e-learning course to address the knowledge gaps and help organisations take advantage of the many opportunities an inclusive culture provides. A special website has been set up at www.cardinussafetylearning.com to provide help and advice to companies that want to improve equality and diversity and eliminate discrimination and harassment.

Cardinus has been developing effective risk management and ergonomics programmes for more than 15 years. Its customers include many of the world’s leading organisations, central government departments and unions.

The Cardinus approach to effective risk management is to apply simple programmes that provide a modular, adaptable solution. For more information about Cardinus products telephone 020 7469 0200, email info@cardinus.com or visit www.cardinussafetylearning.com.

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