Workplace discrimination remains a major concern for UK businesses. To help, we have produced 7 tips to help you promote equality in your organisation.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a responsibility to their workers to protect them from any form of harassment, discrimination and bullying in the workplace. However, we know that workplace discrimination is still a major concern - across all industry sectors.
More than a quarter of UK workers say they have experienced workplace discrimination, according to a recent survey. It seems prejudice towards gender, age and race and age is still commonplace in UK businesses and still leading to substantial fines.
A major study by the TUC found extremely high levels of sexual harassment (68%) were experienced by LGBT workers, with 1 in 8 LGBT women reporting serious sexual assault or rape. More worrying still is the finding that the majority of those (66%) did not report the incident to their employer for fear of being "outed" at work.
What's more, the number of disability discrimination claims at Employment Tribunals rose by 37% from 2017 to 2018. Employment law experts suggest workplace stress is driving up these claims, with individuals more willing to bring claims related to mental health issues caused by discrimination.
Clearly, workplace discrimination should never be tolerated. And with an increased focus on equality brought about like things like the #metoo and #timesup movements, organisations really should be doing all they can to promote equality.
Clare Murray, a city employment lawyer commented that "we should be willing to consider placing as much importance on protecting people’s safety and their well-being at work as we do on their data and on preventing money laundering through businesses."
With public bodies also having a specific Public Sector Equality Duty, it's vital that companies are proactive in providing both general equality training and specific courses focussing on individual areas like sexual harassment.
To help, we have produced seven best practice tips for promoting equality and combating workplace discrimination.
1. Identify and prevent unconscious bias
We all have unconscious biases. If we don't acknowledge this about ourselves then how can we tackle it?
To become aware of your own biases, take an Implicit Association Test (IAT). Pay particular attention to bias relating to the 9 protected characteristics (e.g. age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage, pregnancy, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation) as this is discrimination.
2. Put equality policies in place
Everyone should be treated fairly in all day-to-day activities and work-related decisions (recruitment, training, promotion, allocating work, pay, etc.). We should be embracing people's differences. A more diverse workforce is more profitable too!
Everyone must be treated fairly in all day-to-day activities and work-related decisions (recruitment, training, promotion, allocating work, pay, etc.). But we should go further still. Diversity and Inclusion expert Verna Myers put it best, "Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance". Embrace people's differences.
3. Mind your language
Check that all your communications are free of discriminatory and sexist language Careless or sloppy language and stereotyping, however unintentional, can create a perception of inequality and make people feel vulnerable.
4. Use objective criteria
When recruiting, training, and promoting, ensure you have clear, objective criteria so that you always make decisions based on merit and aren't influenced by bias. Encourage group decision-making or conduct audits if there is a concern about a particular team, manager or business unit.
5. Be proactive
Don't slavishly follow rules if you think they are wrong, if they create unintentional bias, or lead to some groups being treated less favourably than others. Instead, work to get them changed. If no one steps up to change the status quo, these unconscious biases will continue to dictate our workplaces.
The good news is, Generation Z, the under 25s are twice as likely as older generations to challenge norms and promote inclusion. Speaking to The Independent, Debbie Klein at Sky commented that "There's a new glass ceiling and it has remained unseen, but it seems Generation Z have better eyesight - they can see it [inequality] and they want to smash it." So, empower them to call it out.
6. Get advice if needed
Your HR or Legal & Compliance departments will be able to offer sound advice on how to avoid unconscious bias or discrimination when making complex decisions such as terminating contracts or making people redundant to ensure that the rules are followed correctly.
7. Watch out for indirect discrimination
Make sure that your company policies don't inadvertently put certain groups at a disadvantage. For example, a requirement to be 'clean-cut' could discriminate against anyone who wears their hair long for religious reasons.
Conversely, don't pretend not to notice harassment by a predatory manager because "it's just banter" or "he doesn't mean anything by it". It has the potential to damage your reputation forever.
Finally, workplace equality isn't just about implementing procedures to stop workplace discrimination. That's the easy bit. We also have to actively promote equality and inclusion, ensuring people are free to focus on what matters most - making our company the best it can be.
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