Within the UK, Equality and diversity are terms used to define and champion equal treatment regardless of our differences giving every individual the chance to achieve their potential, free from prejudice and discrimination.
The legislation governing equality in the workplace is wide ranging and comprehensive. It essentially sets out minimum standards that employers and their employees should comply with to ensure that discrimination is eliminated in the workplace, but generally in society too. The key Act is the Equality Act 2010, which repealed a number of previous anti-discrimination laws and sets out expectations in relation to eliminating discrimination with regard to a number of protected characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, disability and others.
In the case of disability, for instance, organisations must put in place reasonable work place adjustments in order that a disabled person can continue to do their job. These adjustments can be wide ranging from physical working environment changes to adjustments to work patterns and working hours. Given the varying needs of individuals, the adjustments are made on a case by case basis taking into account the needs of the individual and the ability of the employer to accommodate that.
People are not all the same (it would be boring if we all were!) and therefore welcoming diversity and accommodating our differences should go beyond merely complying with minimum legal standards, and instead embrace practices that promote diversity, such that within the workplace we develop a culture where all are able to feel safe, secure and respected regardless of perceived differences.. A well-implemented diversity programme can help create a workplace that’s centred on fairness, dignity and respect. Good diversity programmes may include the following:
- Communicating with employees, suppliers and clients in ways that are accessible to them, this may include, for instance, utilising internal or external media solutions that reaches out across divides, crossing language and social barriers
- Understanding the role that cultural and religious beliefs play in peoples’ working and personal lives and accommodating those within the work environment, for instance by enabling workers to observe aspects of their religious faith, whether this be observing prayer times, or simply wearing clothes or jewellery symbolic of their beliefs
- Ensuring that everyone is able to get support and assistance which takes account of their individual needs
- By removing the potential for bias from decisions relating to employment practices , for instance as part of recruitment or promotion
A good diversity programme reassures employees that there will be no discrimination in the
workplace and instils confidence allowing people to openly discuss and challenge any behaviours that might be inappropriate.
For employers, having employees from all walks of life can be a huge benefit, and so is more than just about accommodating peoples differences. Having a diverse workforce generates different perspectives and insights which can lead to a much more dynamic, creative and informed way of working.
Diversity affects everyone. Being part of a varied, able workforce where such perceived barriers to progression are removed, makes employees feel more positive about their job, more committed, more engaged and more productive.
The Survey Initiative team are experts in the field of employee research. If you would like to know more about how we can help your organisation with employee engagement, then call us on +44 (0)1255 850051 or visit our website.