Understanding Equality And Diversity In The Workplace

5th February 2015

Updated 11/07/2019

legal-services-sector-marshall-elearningIn the UK, companies are legally required to follow practices that eliminate discrimination, and ensure that workers can expect fair and equal treatment at work.

All workers must be treated equally and given the same opportunities regardless of their race, age, gender, sexuality, disability, culture or any other characteristic that might be discriminated against.

The legislation ensures that companies foster inclusive working environments, and that differences are never stand in the way of career progression – or getting a job in the first place.

There are a variety of discrimination acts that exist to make sure companies adhere to the minimum standards. The legislation is wide-ranging and comprehensive.

These acts include:

All of these laws exist to ensure that staff are recruited from the widest possible pool of potential candidates. And once at work, all staff are given equal treatment and equal opportunity, regardless of their gender, race, ability, nationality, sexuality – or other protected characteristic.

Equality and Diversity

So what do equality and diversity really mean?

In the UK, equality is about promoting and fostering every individual’s right to be different. Laws protect us from discrimination, and ensure we can be valued as individuals, with the right to your own beliefs and values.

Diversity means varied and different.

Diversity, therefore, is about more than equality; it’s about creating a culture that values individual differences and variety for the benefit of society, individuals and organisations.


What’s So Important About Having A Diverse Workplace?

Equality. Diversity and Inclusion

Having a diverse workforce means that your organisation can tap into a wide range of ideas, skills, resources and energies, to give the business a competitive edge. There is a much wider pool of talent available to the organisations that embrace diversity. Diverse organisations also reap the benefits of a broader market, improved productivity and a raised profile within the community.

Benefits of diversity management (i.e. actively encouraging the pursuit of a diverse workforce) include:

  • Knowledge of different areas of the community can be utilised
  • A better understanding of market segments and consumer behaviour can be attained
  • Become an employer of choice
  • Retain a wider talent pool when recruiting
  • Create a more balanced and representative workforce

The working environment that such diversity management initiatives produce are also beneficial to employees.

Benefits of diversity management for employees:

  • Staff will have a better appreciation, understanding and respect for difference
  • Contrasting perspectives will be encouraged, which can lead to improved team productivity and success
  • Employees’ morale will be improved, which raises motivation
  • Standards of delivery will be improved
  • Retention of employees will be strengthened, as will employee progression
  • The workplace becomes a vibrant, inclusive and nurturing environment

Equal Opportunities

Collecting Equality Data E-Learning Course

We’ve all heard the words ‘equal opportunities’ being used in reference to the workforce.

But what does it really mean to ensure that all employees are treated equally and have the same access to promotion and progression within an organisation?

Most commonly, the term ‘equal opportunity’ is used within human resources to describe the actions and measures taken to ensure fairness in employment and recruitment. In simple terms, equal opportunity is about addressing the balance and representation of a community within a workforce.




But what does it mean in action?

Equal opportunity means:

  • All people are treated as individuals without being judged according to stereotypes.
  • Understanding, appreciating and valuing all staff members’ different skills and abilities, and using their differences for the best personal and organisational results.
  • Offering fair, courteous and equal opportunities to all individuals.
  • Embracing the principle that people will be treated with fairness.
  • People of all backgrounds and experiences feel valued and appreciated.

Workplace Policies

Many organisations have their own equal opportunities policy. It should describe the steps the organisation will take to abide by equality legislation (such as those listed above) and promote equality in the workplace.

These policies are designed to prevent certain employment situations, such as:

  • Male employees being paid more than female colleagues for doing the same job.
  • Interviews only being given to workers/outside candidates of a particular gender or age (when these things are not a factor in being able to perform the advertised role).
  • A person with a physical disability not being able to get a job in an organisation due to, for example, a lack of wheelchair access.
  • New roles not being advertised internally.
  • Employers allowing extra holidays for staff from one particular religion, but not from others.
  • Employees being overlooked for promotion because of their gender, sexuality or disability.


inclusive recruitment best practiceOrganisations must follow certain procedures for recruitment in order that all applications are treated appropriately and fairly, and that nobody is rejected because of their race, gender, sexuality or any other discriminatory reason.

These procedures should include:

  • Setting a job description so all applicants are evaluated against the exact same criteria and nothing else.
  • Advertising the post in a variety of locations (online, in the press, through job centres) in order that the role is publicised to as wide an audience as possible.
  • Ensuring that there is an interview panel so that the views of more than one person are taken into consideration when deciding on who attains the position.


Equal opportunities for promotion should always be made available to all staff, and no employee should be restricted from promotional opportunities because of their colour of skin, religion, gender or any other discriminatory reason.

It should be part of the company’s equal opportunities policy to ensure that discussions are regularly held with all members of staff, in which employees can talk about how they see their career developing, and ask for any training and support should they wish to progress into more senior roles in the company. These discussions can be undertaken on a one-to-one basis, or in front of a panel if the employee so wishes, such as at appraisals and personal reviews.


When it comes to pay, under the laws of equality, no employee should be paid any more or any less than any one of their colleagues who are performing the same role due to their age, gender, religion, sexuality or any other discriminatory reason.

However, it should here be noted that under some circumstances there becomes a legitimate reason for differences in pay between employees who are undertaking the same job role. For example if somebody has been with the company for a longer period of time, or has more experience or qualifications. It is vital, however, that the employer be able to justify that the reasons for the differences in pay are legitimate, and not based on any form of bias towards one employee over another.

What Is The Effect On Companies and Staff?

classroom training servicesA good diversity programme has many beneficial effects on staff and organisations alike. Indeed, when it comes to equality and diversity, a good rubric means that the whole working environment is much better, productivity is heightened, and success and business naturally increase.

Employees can rest assured that they will not be discriminated against in the workplace, and that they have equal opportunities for promotion and progression, and that they are only being assessed on their performance and measurable merits. Colleagues will feel empowered because they know  they are being employed for their aptitude, just as everyone else around them.

Additionally, employees can be confident that they will be given the right tools to do their job properly, which can be anything from proper disabled access, flexible working hours, and even good communication from all members of staff. When there are no barriers to job progression, the workforce feels more positive about their jobs and will be more committed to working hard for the company. These sorts of diversity and equality initiatives create a sense of understanding and respect right throughout an organisation, which creates a pleasant and productive working atmosphere for everyone.

Employers benefit, also. Having people from all walks of life can give a huge boost to a business, with different insights, perspectives and experiences all combining to produce an effective, dynamic and creative workforce.

What To Do If You Encounter Discrimination

Some companies fail to adhere to equality and diversity laws – and their own equal opportunities policies. If you feel that you are being discriminated against, then there several ways you can seek help.

Contact your:

  • Trade union
  • HR representative, or the person who deals with workplace grievances
  • Citizen’s Advice Centre

The first thing you should do is find out about your company’s grievance procedures. It may be useful to contact the human resources department about this. If you cannot resolve the issue internally, then you can take your case to an employment tribunal, especially if you found yourself forced out of a job for what you believe to be discriminatory reasons.

Support Equality and Diversity in Your Workplace

Equality and diversity are the terms used to both define and champion the values of human rights in society, and that includes the workplace. With every individual being given an equal chance to achieve their potential, absolutely free from prejudice and discrimination, the importance of these terms, and the laws that enforce their meanings, are in place to advocate and promote the true sense of equality and opportunity for all.

A good diversity programme has many beneficial effects on staff and organisations alike. Indeed, when it comes to equality and diversity, a good rubric means that the whole working environment is much better, productivity is heightened, and success and business naturally increase.

Equality and Diversity Training from the Experts

Marshall E-Learning have delivered digital and face-to-face learning for hundreds of thousands of learners at companies, universities and public sector organisations.

Our background as leaders in HR, compliance and recruitment means that our courses are infused with our experience, expertise and enthusiasm for these subjects.

If your organisation needs up-to-date training on diversity, equality, inclusive recruitment or a range of compliance topics, contact our team today.

You can also browse our current courses  below – or request bespoke training solutions.

Diversity e-learning courses

Compliance e-learning courses

Management e-learning courses

Safeguarding e-learning courses

Wellbeing e-learning courses 


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