A workplace encouraging equality, diversity and inclusion can help:

  • Make it more successful
  • Keep employees happy and motivated which in turn reduces absenteeism
  • Prevent serious or legal issues arising, such as bullying, harassment and discrimination where correct policies and procedures are in place. In turn this reduces disruption and costs to the business
  • To better serve a diverse range of customers
  • Improve ideas and problem-solving, collaboration and team work
  • Attract and retain people. In turn this reduces labour turnover and costs associated with recruitment and training

What is Equality?

Equality in the workplace means equal job opportunities and fairness for employees and job applicants. It means that everyone has equal opportunity and is respected and is treated the same regardless of their characteristics such as age, cultural background, sexual orientation, career experiences and more.

What is Diversity? 

It is more than equality; it is the range of people in your workforce and creating a culture that values individual differences. For a workplace to be diverse, it will typically include a range of people with differences between them, such as sex, religion, beliefs, disability, race and more

What is Inclusion?

An inclusive workplace means everyone feels valued at work. It is about how employees are treated at work; how they come up with different ideas, raise issues and feel safe to try new things and do things differently. It is also about how the employees interact, communicate, connect and work together. A Company culture as well as the policies and procedures it has in place helps to shape and impact the effectiveness of inclusion. 

The Equality Act 2010 

This Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees because of nine ‘protected characteristics’ : age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. 

It is essential to have a suitable policy in place to reduce instances of discrimination and ensure appropriate action is taken if an incident does occur; it should set out clearly the steps an employee should take if they believe that they have been subjected to discrimination, or believe they have witnessed discrimination.

Discrimination occurs when an employee for example is refused promotion, dismissed, excluded from social activities, or given different pay or terms and conditions because of one of the nine protected characteristics as set out above. Job applicants also have protection under the Equality Act 2010 so, an employer needs to ensure any recruitment process is free from any potential discrimination.

The Equality Act also provides that employers should make reasonable adjustments in order that a disabled employee can fulfil their duties to the best of their abilities this may include modifying or providing specialist equipment or providing additional rest breaks. 

Where should an employer start in trying to ensure an inclusive workforce? 

An employer should devise and put in place a workplace policy covering equality, diversity and inclusion, sometimes refereed to as an ‘Equal Opportunities’ policy. It should also educate on what discrimination is and summarise the law as well as setting out what is and what is not acceptable behaviour and what steps should be taken to resolve any issues. The Policy should make it very clear that the Company supports and treats everyone fairly. There should also be a Policy covering Bullying and Harassment in the workplace, supported by a clear message that such behaviour as well as any acts of discrimination will under no circumstances be tolerated. 

Where an employer does not take action against any employees that are the perpetrators of behaviours constituting discrimination or bullying and harassment and the employee/s subject to the behaviour leave, they may have a claim for constructive unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal. The Employer risks being directed to pay the applicant a significant monetary sum as well as suffering reputational damage.

A Company may already have the aforementioned policies in place and may want to review them or, a Company may not have the policies in place at all. In both situations, it is always a good idea for the employer to consult with the workforce and any representatives, following which, an action plan should be put in place detailing the process for ensuring that the policy is successfully implemented and embraced. 

Apart from devising an implementing a Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy what can an employer do?  

  • When recruiting, think about advertising in at least 2 different places to extend the reach of potential candidates. 
  • Train managers on skills that help them including having an inclusive attitude and practising best practice in terms of unconscious bias (making decision based on what they think or believe about a person because of the protected characteristic). This includes activities such as recruitment and also redundancy selection.
  • When inducting new employees ensure that the employee is aware of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy so they can get on board from the outset. Reinforce this at reviews or promotions Training and development. 
  • Promote a culture that adopts transparency and an environment where employees feel they can apply for any roles regardless of any protected characteristic. 
  • Ensure that employees are clear on the Company’s purpose and values. 
  • Think about reinforcing the policies by training and awareness at regular intervals e.g. 12 monthly E&D E-Learning or workshops.  
  • Ensure that workforce doing equal pay receive equal pay, benefits and terms and conditions.
  • Try to agree to employees’ requests, where reasonable, for time off for religious festivals and to pray at work. Refusing a request for religious practice without a good business reason may be discrimination. 
  • Check your workplace dress code does not discriminate against any protected characteristics.
  • When employees are away from work because of family related leave such as maternity leave or caring for children, they should be kept informed of any important changes in the workplace and also notified of any training or job opportunities. 
  • Employers need to have a valid business reason for refusing any flexible working requests to avoid the risk of discrimination because of a protected characteristic. 
  • Within bigger Companies, employers should consider having an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion champion who can be the voice of under-represented groups. 
  • Employers can think about holding activities that encourage inclusion in the workplace, such as: Black History Month, LGBT History Month, Mental Health Awareness Week

Should you require any further advice or help in relation to the contents of this article then please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team at Absolute Works 0333 2005153