Equality & Diversity in the Workplace

Equality and diversity in the workplace is a key area of compliance. The UK legislation sets basic standards for equality and inclusion at work which companies need to comply with.

More than a third of UK adults report experiencing workplace discrimination either while at work or when applying for a job.

The Equality Act 2010 aims to prevent discrimination against employees based on gender, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, age, ethic origins or nationality.

If you need help implementing your equality and diversity roadmap, we can suggest practical solutions.

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Equality & Diversity in the Workplace

Achieving Equality & Diversity at Work

Equality and diversity legislation focus on eliminating discrimination, creating equal opportunities in the workplace and developing strong working relationships between different people. The Equality Act 2010 is the foundation on which equality and diversity in the workplace is built. It consolidates various pieces of legislation into one act. The aim of this is to make the law easier to understand and, therefore, encourage compliance.

Beyond legal compliance, companies have a social responsibility to treat employees fairly, promote understanding of different characteristics and contribute to employee well-being. By creating an inclusive work environment, your company is better equipped to reach to wider customer base. This culture breeds productivity with individuals having a sense of value which also boosts staff morale.

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 aims to protect employees from suffering discrimination on the grounds of a series of protected characteristics, both in the workplace and in wider society. The act also strives to advance the equality of opportunity and foster good relations.

What are the protected characteristics?

Having a protected characteristic means you have a right not to be treated less favourably or subjected to an unfair disadvantage because of that characteristic. There are nine protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010. They are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation

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Types of Discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination. There are different types of discrimination, each with its complicated legal test, burdens of proof and defences.

A basic summary of the types of discrimination is included below:

  • Direct Discrimination happens where a person (A) treats another (B) less favourably than they would treat others because of a protected characteristic.
  • Indirect Discrimination is concerned with acts, decisions or policies which are not intended to treat anyone less favourably but which, in practice, have the effect of disadvantaging people with a protected characteristic. A classic example is an employer requiring an employee to work full time. This request could cause a disadvantage to women as a group (the protected characteristic of sex) because women are more likely than men to want/need to work part-time owing to childcare obligations.
  • Harassment occurs when a person (A) engages in unwanted conduct relevant to a protected characteristic towards another (B), which violates B’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B.
  • Victimisation occurs when an employee is subjected to a detriment because they have done (or it’s believed they have done) a protected act. Protected acts include bringing discrimination claims, raising complaints of discrimination, or giving information or evidence in discrimination proceedings.

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Promoting Workplace Diversity

A workplace culture that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion can encourage employee retention, attract the best candidates in recruitment, increase productivity and enhance an employer's business reputation. It also helps substantially reduce the risk of discrimination allegations.

Research by Culture Shift has found that over half of employees from ethnic minority backgrounds think diversity should be more of a priority in the workplace.

  • 79% of employees responded to say that working somewhere with a diverse workforce is an important factor in happiness at work.
  • 50% reported that their employer could do more when it comes to diversity.
  • 86% of employees said working at a company with a strong ethical background was important.
  • 91% stated that working at a company with a good reputation for treating employees fairly was integral to their happiness at work.

Taking steps to create a diverse and fair employment environment is therefore crucial to matters like staff retention. You can take the following steps to review and improve diversity in your organisation:

  1. Starting point - review where you are and see where your particular issues and challenges lie. For example, for many employers, work has been done to achieve greater equality between men and women. However, other protected characteristics, like race or disability, may still need attention.
  2. Setting targets - where you have identified challenges in certain areas, setting realistic targets or goals to improve diversity, equity and inclusion can help steer the company towards improvement. This may include things like:
    1. Setting targets to increase the percentage of women (or other protected characteristics) at senior management level;
    2. Establishing mentoring programmes to help increase equality of opportunity for those from ethnic minority backgrounds; or
    3. Setting up internal networking groups aimed to support those with particular protected characteristics, encouraging allies who do not share that characteristic to show support and inclusion.
  3. Ongoing action - you can also take ongoing steps, including carrying out equality monitoring during recruitment and widening diversity in senior leadership talent pools for future diverse succession planning. Ongoing monitoring throughout the employment relationship from recruitment, pay and remuneration, promotions and secondments, flexible working and grievances, and disciplinary action can help better understand whether your organisation is taking strides forward with equality and diversity. Bringing in exit interviews or other monitoring for reasons for leaving can also gain valuable insights.
  4. Consider having workplace champions - a workplace equality champion is a person within an organisation who advocates for, and monitors equality issues, oversees training, and offers support to employees who have suffered discrimination. It is useful to appoint equality champions at all levels: a senior champion shows the employer takes equality seriously, but employees may find a more junior person more approachable. Employers should also aim to appoint workplace champions that are representative of people in insecure employment and more junior positions.
  5. Mentoring - an effective way of encouraging diversity and equality of opportunity. Internal mentoring provides support, advice, and assistance to more junior employees by more senior and experienced employees in the business, passing on their knowledge and experience. They can also act as effective role models, providing feedback and guidance and helping identify and develop their needs and goals. A diverse range of mentors from a broad range of backgrounds is likely to be most effective in encouraging more junior employees. Some employers have developed external mentoring programmes, offering mentoring to school and university students interested in their sector. Reverse mentoring, where a more junior colleague mentors a manager or member of the senior leadership team, is also a useful tool for them to gain insight into the perspectives of junior team members on minority and diversity issues.

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Policies & Procedures

Avoiding or reducing disputes and conflicts is key to a workplace promoting dignity and respect. To achieve this you need clear rules and policies are necessary. It's worth considering whether you have policies and procedures that are up-to-date and fit for purpose and have been appropriately communicated to employees.

Key policies include:

  • Equality and Diversity
  • Bullying and Harassment
  • Grievance
  • Disciplinary

It's also essential that the business has a consistent and clear message, prominently placed in any literature and on their website, that the company has a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination. A wider policy review would also be of value to ensure that none of the other policies includes rules which could be indirectly discriminatory to a protected characteristic.

Skillcast's online Policy Hub allows you to manage your policies and request employees to review and attest to the relevant policies efficiently.

Policy Hub

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Equality & Diversity Training

Training staff on Equality and Diversity, including what is and is not acceptable, is also helpful – both from a culture perspective and to assist an employer in defending allegations of discrimination if/when they arise.

This can and should be done at the induction stage but also is valuable throughout employment. Unconscious bias training is also valuable and can aid in creating an inclusive workplace.

Skillcast offers a range of online courses in our Essentials Library to help educate your staff. These include:

Compliance Essentials E-learning Courses

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Recruitment Processes

Diversity starts at the recruitment stage, and the promotion of a diverse and equitable workplace can make a difference from this very early stage. In order to create an empowering culture for all employees, organisations need to be diverse, inclusive and showcase true representation across all levels of the business.

There is clearly work to do at this level for many employers. A 2020 report by Milkround found that:

  • 66% of students and graduates surveyed (business leaders of the future) did not believe that employers recruit a truly diverse workforce, despite the fact that
  • 59% of employers believe their efforts to promote diversity in recruitment are sufficient

The Culture Shift study revealed:

  • almost one-quarter of the respondents say their employer could improve workplace culture by recruiting more people from BAME backgrounds
  • 19% say their employer could improve its culture and be more inclusive by recruiting more people from LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) backgrounds
  • one-in-five (21%) say their employer could improve its culture by recruiting more people of varying abilities, a better gender balance and more people of different religions/faiths.

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Staff Surveys

Assessing inclusion in the workplace through employee and manager feedback is an important reflection of how effective your equality and diversity policies are.

Your company can use anonymous surveys to uncover employee awareness deficiencies, lack of clarity in policies/procedures, and sources of risk.

Skillcast provides a Compliance Survey Tool to conduct robust, anonymous staff surveys that ensure the widest coverage and enable employees to give feedback to you in confidence.

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Free Equality Resources

Check out our blogs on recognising unconscious bias and how to promote equality in the workplace.

We also offer over 100+ free compliance training aids, including a presentation that you can use to explain modern slavery to your staff and get them thinking about the scale of the problem, the people at risk and our responsibilities.

Workplace Harassment Training Presentation

Our Workplace Harassment Training is delivered as a 20-minute editable PowerPoint presentation. It aims to help you explain to employees why treating colleagues equally and with respect is key to a healthy working environment.

Free Workplace Harassment Training Presentation

Sexual Harassment Training Module

Our Sexual Harassment Course will help your employees to identify, avoid and report behaviour that constitutes sexual harassment to build an inclusive workplace.

Free Sexual Harassment Training Module

Promoting Equality Training for Staff

Our editable PowerPoint presentation enables you to give a time-efficient presentation to all your team members.

Free Promoting Equality Training Presentation

Promoting Equality Training for Managers

This presentation will help your managers to address key issues, including the impact equality has on businesses and how critical it is to create a healthy working environment.

Free Equality Training for Managers

E-learning Accessibility Checklist

Our comprehensive checklist contains 60 checks to help you to assess the accessibility of your e-Learning following POUR guidelines.

Free E-Learning Accessibility Checklist

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Equality & Diversity Best Practices

If you'd like to stay up to date with equality and diversity best practices, industry insights and key trends across regulatory compliance, digital learning, EdTech, and RegTech news, subscribe to the Skillcast Compliance Bulletin.

Equality & Diversity Best Practices

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It's been 50 years since the Equal Pay Act, but discrepancies in pay remain significant, which is why gender pay gap reporting is more important than ever.

Tips for Gender Pay Gap Reporting

10 Tips to Reduce Unconscious Bias at Work

Unconscious bias may lead to certain groups being treated less favourably or discriminated against. To help, we have 10 tips on how to reduce bias in the workplace.

Reduce Unconscious Bias at Work

Simple Accessibility Checks

Making digital content accessible can be a daunting task. So we have a quick checklist to help you get started or benchmark existing content.

Simple Accessibility Checks

How to Promote Equality & Diversity in the Workplace

Workplace discrimination remains a major concern for UK businesses. To help, we have tips on promoting equality and diversity in your organisation.

How to Promote Equality in the Workplace

Workplace Gender Equality Tips

Despite slow improvements, businesses still have a long way to go to reach gender equality. We have five suggestions to help your firm get started.

Workplace Gender Equality Tips

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