Promote Equality and Diversity at Work

It’s About Actions. Not Just Words.

Promoting equality and diversity at work is vital. Have you ever experienced discrimination in the workplace? A CIPHR survey found that 36% of UK adults have, for reasons ranging from age to race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.

The Equality Act 2010 places the responsibility of protecting workers from harassment, discrimination, and bullying in the workplace squarely on the shoulders of employers. However, this does not mean that managers are the only ones who should be tackling discrimination and promoting equality and diversity. That’s a job for all of us. 

The Cost of Discrimination 

Firstly, bullying, harassment, and discrimination can cause serious effects on mental and physical health. Stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic illnesses can occur. Some long-term studies have found that negative health effects can remain for many years after a person has experienced discrimination. 

Furthermore, it’s not just the people who are discriminated against that failing to pay attention to equality and diversity hurts. It can damage the entire business. 

Staff Turnover Will Increase

Staff turnover will increase because who wants to stay when they are being treated so poorly? Therefore, if discrimination occurs regularly, or appears to be a part of the culture, people will leave. And, when the word gets out, it can be hard to replace them. As a result, the cost of continuous hiring and training can affect a company’s bottom line. 

Morale Will be Low

Discrimination causes dissatisfaction, disengagement, conflict, and a lack of trust. Will someone who’s being treated unfairly want to do their best work? (or even be capable of it in that environment)? What about the effects of the people who see it happening but feel powerless to do anything? The effects on morale and productivity can be disastrous. 

Businessess Can Face Legal Action

If equality and diversity are ignored in a workplace and discrimination is rife, businesses can face legal action. Therefore, many different types of workplace disputes end up being taken to employment tribunals. Discrimination cases are just one of them. 

Going back to the CIPHR survey, figures from Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service show that the most common type of discrimination cases that were brought to Employment tribunals in England and Wales in 2017-18 were related to equal pay (62%). These were followed by age discrimination (12%), issues relating to discrimination based on sex (9.6%), and disability (9.6%). 

If a tribunal rules in favour of an employee, a business can pay the price. Figures show that the highest average amount of compensation that was awarded in age discrimination cases in 2019-20 was £39,000. In a disability discrimination case in the same period, compensation of £266,000 was awarded. Still think you can get away with ignoring equality and diversity?

Promoting Equality and Diversity at Work

Yes, there are sound business reasons for promoting equality and diversity at work. However, we should all be looking to put an end to discrimination. Simply because it’s the right thing to do. So, here are my top tips on how to promote equality and diversity in the workplace. 

Identify Your Unconscious Biases

We all have unconscious biases. These are judgments we make about others, and they are influenced by our background, culture, and experiences. Do you tend to stereotype groups of people based on characteristics like gender, age, sexual orientation, or disability? Do you tend to recruit the same type of person or personality? Are you sensitive to people’s differences? Bringing awareness to your own biases is the first step to thinking and behaving in a way that’s more conducive to an inclusive workplace. 

Have a Robust Equality and Diversity Policy in Place

It’s best practice to have a living, breathing equality and diversity policy, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. Inclusive practices should be evident in every workplace process from recruitment to pay, promotion, training, and day to day operations. 

Encourage People to Call Out Discrimination

Lastly, stamping out discrimination in the workplace is not just about sending employees on a half-day equality and diversity course. However, that’s not to say that training is not valuable. It can raise awareness and promote understanding of the issues around equality, diversity, and discrimination. 

Furthermore, you’ll get real results if you empower people to speak up when they see discrimination happening. If you make people feel like they can call out inappropriate language instead of it being dismissed as ‘banter.’ If you can show that people are being discriminated against, it will be taken seriously. Hopefully there’s a clear path they can take to resolve the issues. Lastly, demonstrate through actions and not just words. Take a zero-tolerance approach towards discrimination, bullying, and harassment. 

Putting policies together is the easy bit. Pulling together to create more inclusive workplaces is the real work. 

Nicola Richardson

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