Understanding Equality And Diversity In The Workplace

3rd September 2019

Embracing diversity at work helps create an inclusive culture. It encourages staff loyalty and shows commitment to good business ethics. From compliance to leadership, we offer practical solutions on how to promote equality and diversity in the workplace. So just how do you promote equality and diversity in the workplace?


Create a culture of fairness and inclusion

Creating an inclusive culture involves everyone, but a vital ingredient is that senior management provide leadership, showing and demonstrating why it is good for the organisation and its business. Their management style and the language they use should reflect this commitment. An open communications policy can encourage employees to identify issues, make suggestions for improvements and receive feedback. Appointing diversity champions across the organisation at all levels reinforces the commitment to inclusion. If resources allow, a dedicated resource for organising events and overseeing initiatives to raise awareness and engage others is a great idea. The external demonstration of commitment to inclusion through; social media, sharing experiences and ideas with other organisations, attending conferences or networking days, is a positive way forward.

Employee engagement is another fundamental element. During appropriate face to face meetings, seeking employee feelings about inclusion to gauge how included employees feel or highlight any problems can be positive but it needs to be undertaken in a sensitive and collaborative way. Anonymised surveys can provide valuable information but asking the appropriate questions is a key factor as is providing feedback on the survey outcomes and what action will be taken. Employee engagement must feel real for employees so they must be listened to and provided with timely feedback that sets what has, can and can’t be actioned.

Review and evaluation of organisational policies, procedures and practices including managing performance, career progression, remuneration and rewards, recruitment, complaints, disciplinary cases, benefits, employee turnover, learning and development. This can support and demonstrate inclusion through fair and transparent operations.


Offer all staff appropriate diversity and inclusion training

Training is a key component in supporting equality, diversity and inclusion. It helps to raise awareness, providing an understanding of the context and issues across a range of topics. Additionally it can provide the means to deal with sensitive and difficult subjects such as unconscious bias. It can also facilitate further dialogue on how to improve workplace culture and inclusion.

It is unlikely that the legal framework stays the same, laws change and people can become complacent so it’s a good idea to include diversity and inclusion training during staff inductions and follow up with additional courses or work-shopping throughout your colleagues’ time with the organisation.


Identify and prevent unconscious biases

No matter how progressive or open-minded people think they are, bias and unconscious bias is present in everyone. A positive way to tackle unconscious bias is to first acknowledge that you have it then to understand how it affects your attitudes, behaviours and decisions.

Once an individual understands their own situation and coping mechanisms this can help them to recognise these traits in others and enable them to challenge any negative biases.

Find out more about identifying and preventing unconscious bias here.

At Marshalls we offer Unconscious Bias Training which you can find out the details for here.


Make sure you’re compliant

Ensuring that all your policies and processes are current and compliant with appropriate best practice and the law is absolutely vital. Enlist support from legal/HR professionals where needed and keep abreast of any changes in the law that could affect you or your colleagues. Communicate the location of any relevant documentation to all employees and remind them of its existence via internal communications. Too often organisations include this information during inductions or on-boarding programmes when people are overloaded with information but do not revisit this through their career. It is important to be transparent in the policies and procedures you have, to demonstrate commitment to provide appropriate accessibility to all employees.


Be aware of indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination happens when there is a policy that applies in the same way for everybody but disadvantages a group of people who share a protected characteristic, and you are disadvantaged as part of this group. If this happens, the person or organisation applying the policy must show that there is a good reason for it.

The Equality Act 2010 says indirect discrimination can occur on the grounds of:

  1. Age
  2. Disability (including mental health)
  3. Gender reassignment
  4. Marriage or civil partnership
  5. Pregnancy and maternity
  6. Race
  7. Religion or beliefs
  8. Sex
  9. Sexual orientation

In some cases indirect discrimination can be lawful if there is an objective reason, such as where the health and safety of individuals may be affected or where the service or requirements of the organisation might be adversely affected. Other justifications can be an occupational requirement or positive action. An example of an occupational requirement could be women only employees in a domestic violence shelter for women. All justifications have to be based on a proportionate way of achieving a legitimate aim. To learn more about promoting equality, view our Diversity in the Workplace course here.


Diversity and equality in the recruitment process

Recruitment and selection policies and procedures can involve a variety of colleagues so it’s vital that everyone understands their responsibilities, and that promoting diversity and equality is central to the process.

Pay close attention to the language used in adverts, job descriptions and application forms to attract a diverse range of applicants. Using gender neutral language and a clear statement of commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion can help to reassure applicants that they won’t be excluded on the grounds of a protected characteristic as defined in the Equality Act 2010. You should include an equal opportunities monitoring form and an explanation of why this is important. This also offers the opportunity for a disabled applicant to notify you of any reasonable adjustments that they may require.

The selection process should involve a number of appropriate employees such as line managers, HR professional and experts in the job. The decision must be firmly based on an applicant’s demonstration of their ability to do the job.

Record keeping on all aspects of recruitment and selection including any notes, scoring or other information made during the process must be kept. It is important for fairness and transparency but don’t forget to follow your GDPR process.

At the interview stage, it can be beneficial to have a diverse panel to mitigate any unconscious bias and to show your commitment to diversity. All candidates must be treated the same, allocated the same amount of time and informed in advance of any tests or activities they will complete. However if an applicant has a disability you may need to put reasonable adjustments in place for that individual based on their condition.

You must refrain from asking personal questions and concentrate on the candidate’s skills, knowledge and abilities that relate to the person specification for the job. The selection process should focus on appointing the person who best meets the essential criteria for the job.

Medical questionnaires can only be issued when a job offer is made.

To find out more about diversity and equality in the recruitment process, visit our Inclusive Recruitment course here.


Send a clear message

In addition to positive behavioural messages, all internal and external communications should reflect your commitment to equality and diversity. The day-to-day language used by all employees should meet the standards that you have set. Both textual and visual communications should be free of discriminatory or sexist content and avoiding reinforcing adverse stereotypes. It is a good idea to enlist the help of other staff members when reviewing documents that might have sensitive content. A few pairs of eyes and a few different perspectives can help highlight any problematic language or messages.


We hope these tips have offered you some practical ideas for how to promote equality in the workplace.


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