DWP signs legally binding agreement to improve equality and diversity in the workplace

Case name: Department for Work and Pensions section 23 agreement

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) entered a legally binding agreement with us after a former DWP employee won her claim of direct discrimination on the basis of age and race, racial harassment and victimisation.

Background

A former DWP employee won her claim of direct discrimination on the basis of age and race, racial harassment and victimisation.

The employee, who is mixed Nigerian and Welsh, joined the DWP branch in Caerphilly as a full-time administrative officer in 2017 as the only non-white recruit and only trainee over the age of 50 in her cohort.

During her time at DWP, she was subjected to racist language, humiliated and discriminated against while being repeatedly accused of stealing, the court found.

The tribunal also heard that colleagues breached her confidence after she reported feeling "bullied".

After going on sick leave in March 2017, she was dismissed in October that year for being unable to return to work, which the Employment Tribunal ruled as constructive dismissal.

In its judgement, the Employment Tribunal recommended that the DWP pay out more than £386,000 in compensation and seek assistance from us in reviewing its equality and diversity training to ensure it was effectively implemented throughout the organisation.

Why we were involved

Racism, harassment and victimisation have no place in our society. Because Age, Race and Sex are protected characteristics and harassment and victimisation of the employee were focused on these elements, the behaviour demonstrated by DWP employees at the time was against the law. 

When we suspect an illegal act, it allows us to use our legal powers.

What we did

We arranged for DWP to enter into a legal document, known as a section 23 agreement under the Equality Act 2006, to protect its employees from discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

What happened

The agreement with us commits DWP to carrying out an action plan to improve its approach to equality and diversity, including steps such as:

  • Working with ACAS to review diversity & inclusion training and considering and implementing any recommendations the review suggests;
  • Working with the Government Internal Audit Agency (GIAA) to review the departmental processes for handling Employment Tribunal cases and considering and implementing its recommendations;
  • Reviewing grievance and dignity at work procedures and making any changes required;
  • Implementing an Induction Review and Induction Assurance Framework to ensure greater consistency in inductions and a positive introduction to the Department;
  • Introducing Ambassadors for Fair Treatment (AFTs) across DWP to provide additional support to employees.

Who will benefit and how

Signing the agreement was an important and necessary step taken by the DWP. 

We want employers across the country to ask themselves if their workplaces are safe. There’s never been a more important time to focus on building an inclusive society.

"Too often cases like mine are swept under the carpet or go unnoticed because the victim lacks legal knowledge and the resources to take the case to the Employment Tribunal.

I am pleased EHRC and Equal Justice solicitors has brought my case into the public eye and I hope this agreement will bring about the change that should have happened at the DWP decades ago."

Anne Giwa-Amu, the previous DWP employee

Date of outcome

15 December 2020

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