Equality & Diversity in the Workplace

IN THIS SECTION

Equality and diversity in the workplace are proof of a positive environment and effective people management.

All employees and applicants must be given equal opportunities, regardless of their age, race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.

To ensure that employees of minority groups are treated fairly, implementing equality and diversity policies in the workplace is important.

 

What does the law say about equality & diversity in the workplace?

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits unlawful discrimination of people relating to any of the following nine protected characteristics:

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

 
Examples of discrimination in the workplace include bullying employees because of their gender or ostracising certain groups of workers who share certain physical attributes.

Workplace discrimination also happens indirectly. For instance, a company where managers tend to promote only men to management roles despite having fewer credentials or less experience than the women in the team. These actions aren’t necessarily insidious — very often, discrimination occurs because of unconscious biases.

Other manifestations of workplace discrimination include:

  • Dismissal
  • Employment conditions and terms
  • Salary and benefits
  • Promotion and career opportunities
  • Hiring/recruitment
  • Training

 
Within recruitment, it is potentially discriminatory to favour certain groups above others during the application process, unless it is a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’, as stated in the ACAS guidelines on discrimination.

Under the requirements of the Equality Act, employers should make reasonable adjustments in order that a disabled employee can fulfil their duties to the best of their abilities. This could be physically adapting their working environment to minimising the impact of their condition, or any other changes the employee feels will allow them to perform their job better.

 

When discrimination may be lawful

There are some instances in which an employer can take ‘positive action’ to help employees and job applicants who are:

  • At a disadvantage because of a protected characteristic
  • Underrepresented within the organisation
  • Or have specific needs connected to a particular characteristic

 

Employers are not legally obliged to take positive action if they do not wish to do so, and they cannot use positive action to discriminate against others. They must demonstrate that positive action has been reasonably considered, and does not favour a group of people with one of these protected characteristics.

 

Law & diversity 

Despite these legal protections, however, no law requires employers to have a diverse workforce. As such, many working environments continue to be dominated by employees of a particular ethnicity, age or gender.

This lack of diversity doesn’t just create a poor experience for employees, but it could also hamper an organisation’s growth – where management practices that embrace workplace equality and diversity can be the key to building a competitive edge.

 

Benefits of equality and diversity in the workplace

Diversity is a hot topic in business. It’s not just about creating a more diverse workplace; it’s also about the benefits of diversity to the bottom line.

Diverse teams make for more creative companies. Companies with diverse leadership are more likely to have financial returns above the national median. They also tend to be more innovative and profitable due to their ability to address a wider variety of customers and markets.

By improving diversity in the workplace, employers can improve creativity and productivity, increase employee retention rates, and boost innovation.

Creating an inclusive and diverse workforce brings many benefits to your business. Having a diverse range of experiences and identities within your team can help you to better understand and cater for the needs of a wider customer base. Especially so for companies with an international focus, it is advantageous to have staff on your team with roots in other countries or cultures to build better cross-cultural relations with customers.

Encouraging equality and diversity in your workplace has the added benefit of attracting, motivating, and retaining staff.

There are several reasons why diversity is linked to better workplace performance. For one, diverse teams are better positioned to understand different customers. For example, if one member shares a cultural background with a client, they’re more likely to build rapport.

Promoting greater understanding and awareness of these different characteristics also reduces the likelihood of discrimination instances, which consequently reduces the chance of complaints, disciplinary action and employment tribunal claims, and ultimately reduces costs and disruption to your business.

Diversity in employees also means diversity in perspective, leading to richer brainstorming sessions and well-rounded ideas.

 

How to promote equality and diversity in the workplace

Organisations can’t pay lip service to equality and diversity in the workplace – they need to take credible actions to nurture a diverse workforce.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to promoting equality and diversity in the workplace; it has to work for your organisation. Proactive employee engagement, supported by formal policies are the keys to actively encouraging workplace diversity.

 

Training 

Training is a key component of diversity management in the workplace. When done right, training raises awareness and nurtures a better understanding of the impact of discriminatory behaviour.

Diversity and inclusion training also informs employees and managers about the steps they can take when they see or experience unfair treatment stemming from protected characteristics. It can also be used to instil a “No Bystander” policy, encouraging workers to intervene if they see someone use discriminatory language in the workplace.

It’s also a good idea to include diversity and inclusion training in your onboarding process to ensure that new hires get up to speed with your company’s culture and values. You can then follow up with additional diversity courses that dive into specific areas of equality, such as LGBT rights, gender sensitivity, ageism and anti-discrimination law.

 

Assess recruitment practices 

Preventing indirect discrimination begins before you even hire someone. Look at your job postings, for example. The law explicitly forbids job adverts from stating or implying that you prefer candidates based on their protected characteristics. Other practices that you may not have considered to be discriminatory include:

  • Using phrases like “highly experienced” or “recent graduate”: Unless they’re actual requirements, these phrases can discriminate against older people who have not had the chance to get qualifications.
  • Having preferences on where to post job adverts: For example, advertising in men’s magazines.
  • Unstructured interviews: Freewheeling interviews can result in candidates being evaluated differently, allowing biases to creep in.
  • During the interview process, hiring managers cannot ask candidates about their protected characteristics unless you’re doing so for “positive action” to improve equality in your workplace.

 

Identify Metrics for Diversity and Inclusion

No matter how progressive your organisation is, it will still have unconscious and automatic biases. One way to overcome these tendencies is to look at your employee data.
Metrics that measure representation, retention, salary, recruitment, selection and promotion can reveal key trends that show a preference for certain people with shared attributes. For example, tracking your history of promotions may show your organisation is awarding opportunities to people of a specific ethnicity or gender. Your recruitment data may also reveal that your HR department is unknowingly ignoring a wider talent pool.

Again, these biases don’t have to be malicious. Your data will provide an objective overview of your diversity management practices and show whether you’re moving toward your goals for promoting equality in the workplace.

 

Equality and diversity policy

UK legislation sets minimum standards for equality within the workplace, but an effective equality and diversity strategy goes beyond legal compliance and seeks to add value to an organisation, contributing to employee wellbeing and boosting staff morale.

The purpose of an equality and diversity policy is to prevent discrimination against employees and to provide a platform for employees who have been discriminated against or who believe they have witnessed discrimination to raise the issue with their employer with the assurance that it will be taken seriously.

By creating a diversity and equal opportunities policy, you can embed best practices into your hiring and management protocols that drive real and measurable results. As a minimum, your policy could include:

 

Policy brief and purpose

Explain why your company has this policy. Elaborate further by stating what the company hopes to achieve with the implementation of this policy. For example:

This policy outlines our organisation’s commitment to creating an environment that promotes equality and diversity in our workplace. We aim to:

  • Treat all employee equally in every aspect from recruitment to training, promotion, and transfer
  • Build a culture that recognises that a diverse group of people can come together to achieve great results for our company.
  • Prevent all forms of discrimination and take appropriate action against those that discriminate.

 

Scope

This section should define who the policy applies to and who is responsible for compliance. For example:

The obligation stated in this policy is applicable to employees of every level. Temporary, part-time and full-time employees are expected to familiarise themselves and comply with the regulations of this policy. HR and managers have the responsibility to ensure compliance with this policy.

 

Company’s commitment

Use this section to explain how the company is committed to promoting dignity, equality, and respect. Also, define the actions that are considered violations of this policy.

{Company’s name} employees are entitled to a workplace environment where they are valued and treated with the utmost respect. We are committed to promoting equality and diversity through the following ways:

  • All employees will be supported in the development of their skills to help maximise their potential.
  • Bullying, harassment, and all forms of discrimination (direct or indirect) will be prohibited.
  • Every report of discrimination and harassment will be taken seriously and acted upon.

 

Recruitment

How does this policy apply specifically to your recruitment process? How can HR, managers, and employees ensure this policy is followed and adhered to during the recruitment process?

 

HR responsibility

HR responsibilities for the policy may include:

  • Make sure job advertisements descriptions are non-discriminatory and inclusive.
  • Ensure the recruitment selection process is based entirely on merits and candidate’s competencies for the specific role.
  • Make sure no candidate is rejected due to any of the protected characteristics.
  • Report regularly to the management team on equality and diversity issues.

 

Management responsibility

Management responsibilities for the policy may include:

  • Work hand-in-hand with HR to create a transparent and non-discriminatory recruitment process.
  • Monitor and review recruitment arrangements.

 

Promotion, transfer, and training

How does this policy apply specifically to your promotion, training, and transfer process? How can managers and employees ensure this policy is followed and adhered to during this process?

 

HR & manager responsibility

HR & managers responsibilities for the policy may include:

  • Performance assessment criteria will be carefully and regularly examined and reviewed to ensure they are not discriminatory.
  • All company’s promotions and transfers will be based on employee’s performance only.
  • Communicate promotion and transfer criteria clearly to all qualified employee.
  • Unnecessary barriers will be removed from the promotion and transfer process to ensure equality of opportunity for everyone.

 

Employee responsibility

Employee responsibilities for the policy may include:

  • Take part in the company’s training and development workshops and seminars to ensure they are qualified for promotion when due.
  • Provide transparent and honest feedback for team members.
  • Refer only qualified colleagues for promotion.

 

During employment

State how this policy applies to your managers and employees during employment.

 

Management responsibility

Management responsibilities for the policy may include:

  • Regularly review the benefits, terms, and conditions of employment to ensure they are equal and not discriminatory.
  • Ensure no employees is discriminated against or harassed because of the listed discrimination.
  • Provide training to all employees on their role in preventing discrimination in the workplace.

 

Employee responsibility

Employee responsibilities for the policy may include:

  • Comply with policy regulations by treating all colleagues (extend to the treatment of job applicants, clients, and visitors) with respect.
  • Report to your manager or HR if you are aware of any discriminatory action or practice.

 

Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris’ team of employment law and HR consultants offer support to employers with all aspects of workplace equality and diversity. For specialist advice for your organisation, contact us.

 

Equality and Diversity in the workplace FAQs

What is the UK equality and diversity policy?

An equality & diversity policy helps an organisation to meet its obligations under the Equality Act 2010 to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

What is equality and diversity policy in the workplace?

Equality and diversityin the workplace is about meeting legal obligations under the treating each member of staff fairly and the same, respecting them for their age, race, gender, cultural background, skills, beliefs, sexual orientation, career experiences and more.

What is the importance of equality and diversity in the workplace?

A workplace encouraging equality, diversity and inclusion can help: make it more successful. keep employees happy and motivated. prevent serious or legal issues arising, such as bullying, harassment and discrimination.

 
Last updated: 25 January 2023

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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