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

Published: 17 Dec 2020

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has 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.

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.

The agreement 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 and 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

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“Racism, harassment and victimisation have no place in our society and we hope today’s announcement sends a clear message to all organisations that it needs to be rigorously tackled in the workplace.

“It’s over half a century since the Relations Act and a decade into the Equality Act 2010. This behaviour is against the law and we really shouldn’t still be seeing these cases.  

“We welcome these important and necessary steps being 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.”

A spokesperson from DWP said:

“Any form of racism or discrimination is completely unacceptable and immediate action will be taken against any staff who express such views.

“We take the judgment and the circumstances of this case very seriously, and have already taken decisive action to strengthen our response to cases like this. We welcome the opportunity to work with EHRC on this and will be implementing their recommendations as soon as possible.”

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