Discrimination protection for contract workers

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18 August 2009

Do you use contract workers in your organisation? If so, do you know that you may be liable if one of your contract workers is discriminated against by one of your employees?

The case of Leeds CityCouncil v Woodhouse & Others is a timely reminder of this. In this case, the EAT found that the Council was potentially liable for the racially derogatory comments made by one of its employees to a contract worker employed by one of its contractors.  The Council argued that the contract worker did not "work for" the Council and so the Race Relations Act did not apply. However, the EAT decided that the correct approach was to analyse who was doing what and for whose benefit.

In other words, was the work being done by the contract worker for the benefit of the Council and did the discrimination arise in relation to that work? An ability to influence or control the individual's working conditions was also relevant. As it was clear that the work was for the benefit of the Council and the discrimination was in relation to that work, the Council was potentially liable.

Therefore, if you use contract workers you should review your harassment and discrimination policies to ensure that they are wide enough to prohibit employees discriminating against contract workers.

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