Editors note: This blog post was originally published in December 2017 but has since been updated for optimal accuracy and relevance.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a responsibility to their workers to protect them from any form of harassment, discrimination and unfair treatment 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, race and age is still commonplace in UK businesses.
Another study claims levels of race discrimination in UK businesses have remained unchanged since the late 1960s.
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 is not something to be tolerated. And with an increased focus on equality brought about like things like the #metoo movement, organisations really should be doing all they can to promote equality.
Here are our 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, sex, maternity, race, religion, etc) 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!
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 won't be influenced by bias.
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 that are starting to infiltrate our workplaces, are twice as likely as older generations to question the status quo on equal opportunities. Writing for The Independent, Jack Peat claims, "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."
6. Get advice if needed
Your HR or Legal & Compliance departments will be able to offer sound advice on how to avoid unconscious bias when making decisions about terminating contracts or making people redundant to ensure 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-shaven' could discriminate against anyone who wears their hair long for religious reasons.
Finally, workplace equality isn't just about implementing procedures to stop workplace discrimination. We also have to actively promote equality and inclusion.