Whilst most employers appreciate the importance of providing training for members of staff, the question is, how often should training be provided? For example, is it enough for employers to provide equality and diversity training once, during an induction? Or should regular training be undertaken?
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) shed some light in response to this question in the recent case of Allay (UK) Ltd v Gehlen, where it held that the employer could not rely on “stale” equality and diversity training when relying on the defence that it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent harassment in the workplace.
In this case, the Claimant, who describes himself as being “of Indian origin”, was employed by Allay (UK) Ltd (the “Company”) until he was dismissed in 2017. Following Mr Gehlen’s dismissal he complained that he had been subjected to racial harassment by a fellow employee named Mr Pearson whilst employed at the Company. Subsequently, the Company carried out an investigation and found that Mr Pearson had made racist comments.
Mr Gehlen therefore issued claims in the Employment Tribunal for direct race discrimination and harassment related to race. The Tribunal found that Mr Pearson had regularly made racist comments to Mr Gehlen and accordingly upheld the complaint of harassment related to race.
In addition, the Tribunal heard that one of Mr Gehlen’s colleagues and two managers at the Company were aware of the racist comments made by Mr Pearson, however they did not take any action other than one manager issuing Mr Pearson with a minor reprimand.
The Company submitted a defence stating that it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment, referring to an equal opportunity policy, an anti-bullying and harassment procedure and equality and diversity training that Mr Pearson, his colleague and managers had received in January 2015 and bullying and harassment training in February 2015.
The Tribunal held that the training was clearly “stale” and therefore that the Company had not taken all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination in the workplace as a reasonable step would have been to refresh the training.
The Company appealed the Tribunal’s decision, however the EAT dismissed the appeal and held that the Tribunal “were entitled to conclude the training was stale and was no longer effective to prevent harassment, and that there were further reasonable steps by way of refresher training that the Respondent should have taken.”
This case therefore highlights that it is not enough for employers to rely on equal opportunity policies, anti-bullying and harassment policies and outdated equality and diversity training when defending a claim of discrimination and harassment. Furthermore, training needs to be detailed and of a high quality with the EAT commenting that “brief and superficial training is unlikely to have a substantial effect in preventing harassment. Such training is also unlikely to have long-lasting consequences. Thorough and forcefully presented training is more likely to be effective, and to last longer.” Therefore, it is crucial that employers learn from the decision in this case.
We suggest that annual equality and diversity training sessions take place within the workplace to avoid the training becoming “stale”. Of course, if a specific issue arises in the workplace then it would be appropriate to provide training at that time.
If you have any questions regarding the issues raised in this article, or if you would like some information on the training packages that we provide, please contact us on 029 2034 5511 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.