Equality and diversity in the workplace

25 November 2020

Despite the UK being known for its cultural diversity, it’s commonly unrepresented in the workplace. Even in society today, workplace discrimination and equality pay gaps still remains growing concerns.

Employers are duty-bound to protect workers from discrimination. And yet, over 25% of UK workers have experienced discrimination in the workplace. And often feel uncomfortable raising claims.

Encouraging a workplace that’s equal, diverse, and inclusive can not only increase employee morale but also only business reputation.

Read about the principles of equality and diversity in the workplace. Your legal responsibilities regarding equality and diversity. And how to grow confidence in reporting discrimination claims.

What is equality and diversity in the workplace?

In simplest terms, equality and diversity refers to hosting a workplace setting, where employees range in race, religion, sexual orientation, age, education, and more.

We often interchange these two terms by mistake. But a diverse workplace isn’t always inclusive; nor is an inclusive workplace always diverse.

Difference between equality and diversity

Workplace equality regards having fair opportunities for all workers and applicants. It’s about recognising the best person for the job, based on their skills and experience. And avoiding those who ‘parachute’ their way into a job or placement.

Workplace diversity is about understanding and accepting the different perspectives and values of all kinds of people. It goes beyond ticking “diversity boxes” to ensure your processes and hiring policies don’t discourage people because of their beliefs.

Having a workplace that promotes equality and diversity helps develop a culture of inclusion. Where all mindsets and talents work alongside each other.

Why is equality and diversity important?

Workplace discrimination is one of the biggest employment tribunal claims raised by workers.

Even though equality and diversity are different things, there is no specific equality and diversity act.

Businesses are required to comply with the Equality Act , and other relevant laws listed. They collectively keep people from being discriminated against/

The principles of equality and diversity in the workplace are based on the nine protected characteristics:

  • Age.
  • Disability.
  • Gender Assignment.
  • Marriage and civil partnership.
  • Pregnancy and maternity.
  • Race.
  • Religion or belief.
  • Sex.
  • Sexual orientation.

Widening the barriers of your recruitment pool allows you to hire people from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences.

Research on the benefits of equality and diversity done by Harvard found that workers solved problems faster when in a more “cognitively diverse” team. Meaning hiring people for skills on individual thinking and creative exploration evidently increases business success.

Businesses who constantly strive to recruit and maintain an equal workplace and diverse workforce can reap so many benefits:

  • Create positive working relationships.
  • Greater business productivity.
  • Increase in staff performance.
  • Wider appeal to clients and customers.
  • Great representation for brand-name.
  • Attract and retain quality employees.

Equality and diversity legislation

Under equality and diversity legislation, employers have a responsibility to protect workers from workplace harassment, discrimination, bullying, and victimisation. Your obliged to comply with:

  • Equality Act (2010).
  • Sex Discrimination Act (1975).
  • Disability Discrimination Act (1995).
  • Race Relation Act (1965).
  • Human Rights Act (1998).

Prejudice and discrimination can seriously impact workers morale and retention.

If you don’t reduce or eliminate these signs, you could face possible employment tribunals and compensation fees. Not to mention the impact on employee retention and business reputation.

Equality and diversity policy

An equality and diversity policy (or sometimes referred to as an ‘equal opportunities policy’) helps promote workplace equality, diversity, and inclusion. A policy should outline your regulations for everyone to follow, like:

  • Supporting and treating everyone fairly.
  • Conduct and behaviour.
  • Legal discrimination and breaches.
  • Procedures for resolving problems.

It’s also advised to have an action plan, which outlines steps to ensure the policy is practised daily. Include steps such as training programs, measuring procedures, and managing for policy issues.

Everyone in your business should acknowledge the importance of equality and diversity in all areas of work, including:

How to promote equality and diversity in the workplace

Employers should actively promote equality in the workplace. Ensure all employees feel valued, respected, and protected whilst at work.

Here are some methods for how to promote equality and diversity into your business:

Identify and prevent unconscious bias

Unconscious bias is unfortunately part of human nature. It involves having social stereotypes or prejudices against one person or group. Leading to certain people receiving benefits and others being victimised.

Any form of unconscious bias in your business should be eliminated during business decisions. And focus on reducing discrimination that impacts the nine protected characteristics.

Have equality policies in place

Whether from management or other workers, everyone has the right not to be discriminated against. This is especially important for daily tasks and work-related decisions, like salaries, promotions, training, recruitment, etc.

Create policies with clear objectives on equality rules, from the recruitment procedures to promotion outlines.

Employers should celebrate people’s differences. Remember:

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” (Verna Myers, expert writer on diversity and inclusion).

Take a proactive role

Lead by example and take a proactive approach for equality and diversity. Set benchmarks for meeting policies and procedures, helping to monitor reaching aims and targets.

Stay proactive in your effort. Your workers will value your approach and encourage further employee engagement.

Seek advice from your HR team or other advisory bodies, who can help with eliminating workplace discrimination.

Look out for indirect discrimination

Try to eliminate polices that indirectly disadvantage certain people or groups. A workplace requirement for being ‘clean shaven’ could discriminate against workers who keep a beard for religious or cultural reasons.

Put a stop to discrimination and harassment as it happens, regardless of if it’s “just banter”. Failure to manage such situations could simultaneously affect the wellbeing of workers, as well as your business reputation.

Implement a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory language and attitudes. Carelessness and stereotyping (even if unintentional) can cause an uncomfortable environment and personify inequality.

Get expert advice for equality and diversity from Peninsula

Employers benefit from having clear communication on the importance of equality and diversity. Workers will feel valued, respected, and understand the significance of their job role.

Lead by example to encourage all workers to have a more inclusive attitude. And tackle any signs of discrimination, inequality, or exclusion.

Peninsula offers expert advice on how to promote equality and diversity at work. Our HR specialists can help you manage legal obligations as well as create watertight policies and processes for your business.

Peninsula clients also get access to 24/7 HR consultation on specialist guidance for employee relations and wellbeing.

And if you are not yet a client, you can still enjoy free advice from one of our business experts. Simply call us on 0800 028 2420.

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