Equality Rights Disputes

Out of Conflict has been delivering mediation in equalities related disputes and alleged breaches of legislation for 12 years, with an 85% success rate.

In 2012 HM Government withdrew funding for cases brought through the EHRC/EMS. Claimants must now fund cases themselves or seek sponsors. The opportunity for people with such claims to have equal access under the law to mediation or redress is now significantly diminished.

Out of Conflict will continue to mediate such cases but now, reluctantly, charges the parties directly for this.  A decade or more of experience will hopefully serve clients well.

After the 2012 Olympics, David Hilton published a press article about the demise of the EMS and equalities in general after the Olympics: Mind the Gap: A post-script to the 2012 Olympic Games.

Some case histories

Out of Conflict has mediated scores of cases, covering issues such as access to services- retailers, bars and clubs, cinemas, medical practices, road, rail and air transport; educational support in schools, colleges and universities.

Outcomes which clients have mediated to their satisfaction have ranged from an explanation and discussion of events, an apology and agreed staff training, to improved access to services and compensation which is not always of a monetary nature. The largest sum that a respondent has agreed to pay to a defendant in a case mediated by Out of Conflict is in excess of £32k. Many clients are not interested in a financial outcome, rather they wish to hear the respondent explain and apologise for their individual or corporate behaviour and to put in place measures or facilities that will prevent a future complaint.

Case History 1 (typical of many)

A complainant brought a claim of alleged discrimination against a retailer who had not made provision for wheelchair access to the upper floor of the store. Assistants offered to bring possible purchases to the customer, who felt that this diminished the shopping experience and in the light of the DDA did not constitute a reasonable adjustment. Nor did it reflect an anticipatory duty. The shopping experience had, in the view of the complainant, caused real injury to feelings and along with requests for staff training on disability awareness and improved access, he was seeking compensation.

An existing service lift in the store was not suitable for wheelchair users. The store’s representative/property manager attended the mediation and outlined what had been done since receiving the complaint.

Outcomes

The installation of a customer lift was difficult and expensive, though as only one quote had been received, two more would be obtained. Full costs of reasonable adjustments would be submitted to the Board for approval, which was likely in the light of discussions the manager had already started. The costs of installation were at the limit of what the store could reasonably afford but were accepted.

Additionally, it was also agreed to install an internet access point on the ground floor for customers to have access to the full range of products in the store. The complainant was to be regularly informed of and consulted about the changes and a sum for compensation was agreed. A written apology was sent from the company to the complainant when payment was made.

Case History 2

A sight-impaired traveller had experienced problems in obtaining timetables in large print and the rail operator had maintained that it was not cost-effective to produce them, nor a reasonable expectation to have them available at every station. The problems of travel had been compounded by the unreliability of announcements over the p/a system as to the location of the train or at the stations while awaiting a train. As a result the claimant had missed a departure. Her travelling experiences have been regularly diminished; she gave details of dates and times when this had happened. She was claiming that the operator had failed to anticipate its duty to make reasonable adjustments. Desired outcomes included additional or improved training for staff on disability related matters including an assurance that announcements would be made before each stop, installation of improved tannoy systems and help-points on platforms, and large print timetables available at main stations.

Outcomes

The operator outlined work on progress on tannoy systems and agreed to upgrade these and the help points. Full discussion of the issues resulted in the complainant being invited to meetings with the relevant working groups, being consulted about the appropriate format of timetables and how these would be requested and where they would be available. Matters relating to this case would be included in all subsequent staff training for new and existing staff. All these outcomes with dates were confirmed in writing and the complainant received a supply of vouchers for free travel.