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The recent GB case of Allay (UK) Ltd v Gehlen (2021) contains a strong lesson for employers throughout the UK. It demonstrates the need to keep equality and diversity training up-to-date. This case highlights the importance of providing all employees with refresher training to ensure that the employer’s statutory ‘reasonable steps’ defence may apply if harassment, unfortunately, occurs in your organisation. 

 

 
The case before the Employment Appeal Tribunal (UKEAT) concerned an employee who was dismissed for apparent poor performance with less than one year’s continuous service. After being dismissed, the claimant alleged that he had been subjected to harassment relating to his race by another employee.  
 
The respondent investigated the allegations and found that the employee in question had indeed made the racist comments and was ordered to undertake further equality and diversity training. The claimant brought claims on the basis of harassment, but the respondent sought to argue that they had taken reasonable steps under the GB Equality Act 2010 because the workforce had received training in equality and diversity. A similar reasonable steps defence applies in Northern Ireland.  
 
The original employment tribunal found that the training (only two years before the harassment took place) had become ‘stale’. The fact that there had been racist comments made by a colleague and they had been heard by other colleagues who took no action was sufficient to conclude that the training was no longer effective. The argument by the alleged harasser that it was mere ‘banter’ also indicated the training had lost its effect. 
If you need any employment advice please contact our employment team or Julie directly at Julie.leonard@edwardsandcompany. co.uk 

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