Employees can bring a claim, using Legal Aid to help prepare their case, if they are discriminated against because of their gender, religion, disability, age, race and sexual orientation.
Businesses and other organisations may also be subject to a claim if a visitor to their premises overhears something said and takes offence.
Specialist Employment Law Solicitor David Ellis said: “Employers should be paying particular attention to the Equality Act at this time of year because there is scope for office jokes and banter to go too far.
“There has been a 40% increase in these types of claims in 2010 – partly because of the economic climate and partly because people are more aware of their rights – and it costs nothing to bring this type of claim.
“Typically the cost of defending a claim – even if they are successful – would be at least £10000, and if the claim is lost there will be compensation to add to that figure.
“There is no upper limit to possible fines.”
Businesses are advised to ensure they are properly protected by their Contracts of Employment, and Terms of Business.
Employment protection insurance is also available to limit the impact of any type of claim made against businesses by their employees.
David Ellis said: “It is worth spending some time and money ensuring contracts are up to scratch, and putting Employment Protection Insurance in place.
“It may reduce a company’s outgoings further down the line.”
Further information is available by contacting David Ellis on 01782 406827 or email@example.com.
Woolliscrofts Solicitors have been serving businesses throughout Staffordshire and Cheshire for over a century from their network of offices in Hanley, Tunstall, Wolstanton and Alsager.
Media enquiries should be directed to Richard Swancott Associates on 01782 472035 or firstname.lastname@example.org.