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Diversity In The Workplace – A Guide For Employers

Promoting and supporting diversity in the workplace is a vital part of good management. In this guide, we explain how to make sure you are working towards diversity, equality, and inclusivity as an employer.

Though many employers in the UK have been putting diversity, equity, and inclusivity in the workplace into greater focus over the past few years, there is still considerable room for improvement. True diversity and inclusion takes more than just a training video every six months, and is also a lot more than simply being polite to employees.

The trend is a positive one, however, with LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trend report finding that 79% of companies prioritise diversity to improve culture, with 62% of companies prioritising diversity to boost financial performance. Studies have also shown that diverse teams in the workplace can help foster better employee engagement, help facilitate productivity, and can even give companies a financial edge over their competitors.

While diversity is a common topic of conversation amongst employers, HR managers and recruitment professionals, actually implementing a truly diverse workplace policy is easier said than done. Even with proven benefits, many employers still struggle to successfully create a diverse and welcoming atmosphere in the workplace. So, what are some concrete steps employers can take to get it right? Our experts explain below.

 

Your Recruitment Process

Many would argue that diversity starts with a fair and inclusive recruitment process. Identifying recruitment bias is a good first step to overcome. Consider where there might be bias in your procedure, whether it be where your job advertisement is published, the screening process, or the interview questions.

Ensure you advertise in as many places as possible to reach a wide range of people from different backgrounds. You should also promote your business as an “equal opportunities” employer by removing bias from job descriptions and welcoming applications from:

  • Anyone who believes they meet the essential requirements of the job
  • Anyone who is under-represented in the business – which is “positive action”

Positive action, for example, might be saying that you welcome applications from qualified candidates who have a disability. If you do take positive action, however, ensure you can prove it has been reasonably thought through and does not discriminate against others.

You may also consider blind CV screening, where the gender and ethnicity of the applicants are removed prior to you viewing them.

Finally, ensure your hiring team are all on the same page through structured diversity training. Having a diverse interview team can also help any potential candidate feel comfortable. 

 

Your Workplace Policy

Having a watertight equal opportunities policy is also vital in growing diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. However, a Harvard Business Review found that actions often speak louder than words, with a survey finding that 75% of respondents thought that that superficial policies and language were insufficient to truly institute real change.

Employers will first need to determine whether their current policy enables or perpetuates discrimination in the workplace, such as racism or sexism. Employers should consult with employees when creating this inclusive policy, listening to those who are most risk to being discriminated against. 

The policy should help employees understand:

  • The business supports and treats everyone fairly
  • The kind of behaviour that is expected at all times
  • The law surrounding discrimination
  • Where to find the procedures for resolving any issues

Management should be briefed on this policy to ensure all employees are adhering to it at all times. Have concrete disciplinary systems in place that make sure it really is actions and not just words.

 

Figuring Out Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias can affect business decisions every day and is it vitally important managers become aware of the potential issues it can cause. Bias can be defined as a prejudice in favour of or against one thing, person, or group. 

Unconscious bias, however, occurs when you form a quick opinion about a person without being consciously aware of it. Your brain will form a bias by using knowledge about social situations, attitudes, cultures, stereotypes and emotional reaction. 

Business leaders must uncover this bias by becoming more self-aware within the workplace. In order to do this, you may have to have some uncomfortable conversations about bias perceived in everyday interactions with colleagues. 

A positive way to promote conversation and build awareness of unconscious bias is to encourage employees to review, question, and analyse their own personal biases and assumptions and building a culture of inclusion and belonging, so people feel like they can share information.  This can be done in group sessions or, if the employee feels nervous expressing themselves in this way, in an anonymous way.  

Uncovering unconscious bias can lead to positive, proactive decisions about diversity and inclusion within the workplace.

 

Training and Development

Employers should always have equality, diversity, and inclusion in mind when creating training and development strategies. Not only should part of the training strategy be about diversity, but employers should also ensure any type of training is offered to all employees. 

Equality should run through every type of development in your workplace, including:

  • New staff inductions, so employees get on board with the equal opportunities policy straight away
  • Performance review processes
  • Promotion opportunities
  • General training and development sessions, ensuring that everyone can attend 

ACAS provide lots of training events in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion. These events can help employees understand why it is important to value everyone’s differences and how to do so. 

 

Equal pay

Employers should also regularly check that employees carrying out equal work have equal:

  • Pay
  • Benefits
  • Terms and conditions in their employment contracts

Equal pay is a massive point of contention for many companies. Employee trust and a sense of inclusion can be built from an employer’s transparency in their payment policies. 

In addition to this, while equal pay legislation is aimed at pay disparity between men and women, pay discrimination claims can be made for any protected characteristic such as disability, age or religion.

Ensure you are transparent about any discrepancies in pay if it is skewed and inform your employees about a strategy your company is using, or will use, to address the gap.

 

Acknowledging All Cultures and Religions

Making employees aware of all cultures and religions in the workplace can be a great way to foster inclusivity. The law protects employees from discrimination, harassment and victimisation because of religious belief and/or having less belief than someone else.

Business owners should include a policy for honouring a variety of cultural and religious practices. This includes acknowledging holidays of all cultures by keeping track of the holiday celebrations and ensuring you are respectful when scheduling meetings or training. Management should be aware that employees may have different needs that may require flexibility. 

Refusing a request for religious practice without a commercial reason for doing so may amount to religious discrimination. This may also apply to other things such as dietary requirements.

Also keep in mind that your company dress code should not discriminate against any protected characteristics. Making a Muslim woman wear a dress that does not cover her legs, for example, rather than trousers, may be deemed discrimination because of religion.

 

Dismissals and Redundancies

When going through the dismissal or redundancy process, keep in mind that dismissing someone because of a protected characteristic can give rise to discrimination. The nine protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

When selecting staff for redundancy, be careful not to make decisions that are affected by unconscious bias. Always question why you are picking this particular person for redundancy.

This also applies if someone is bullied or harassed to the point they felt no option but to resign. If, as an employer, you do not do enough to stop the bullying, they could file a claim in the employment tribunal for constructive dismissal and if the bullying or harassment was because of a protected characteristic, there is the risk of a discrimination claim being brought. 

 

Ensure Employees Can Give Feedback

Your company should encourage employees to share feedback in order to get a better understanding of what is happening underneath the surface of your business. Through ongoing surveys and anonymous “suggestion boxes”, you can help management understand what the actual on-the-ground problems are, and also give them the ability to make smarter decisions and help reduce any patterns of discrimination. 

Ensure you give employees the ability to provide feedback on every aspect of your company, including training, your workplace policy, and general working practices. 

Employee feedback, can help business leaders to take immediate action on smaller, more pressing issues, while also informing long-term strategies. 

 

How can Percy Hughes & Roberts help?

Getting diversity, inclusivity, and equality right is a tricky yet vitally important aspect of any company.  True diversity comes from listening to employees, removing any unwanted biases, and asking tough questions about your own practices. It also does not come overnight and needs to be continuously reviewed.

Percy Hughes & Roberts can help business owners create a diverse workplace through well-crafted workplace policies and contracts of employment. Our employment law experts can advise on any potential pitfalls, and ensure your business is doing all it can to promote equality and diversity.

At Percy Hughes & Roberts, our Head of Employment, Sarah Simcott, boasts years of experience and promises a confidential, friendly, and honest approach to all issues within the employment law field, particularly issues involving diversity and potential discrimination claims. 

If you have any questions regarding diversity and the complexities that come with it, you can get in touch with us for expert advice.  Get in touch with our Wirral Employment Law Lawyer today by calling 0800 781 3894 or by completing the “Get in touch” form on this site.
 

Contact Percy Hughes & Roberts

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