The terms diversity and inclusion are often seen and heard together. They play an important role in a best practice people management strategy for a successful business.
In theory, the terms are often used interchangeably when discussing matters of equality in the workplace. However, in practice one does not always represent the other.
Understanding the two terms and how they work together is a good place to start for any employer looking to enhance diversity and inclusion policies for their business.
What is diversity in the workplace?
Diversity in the workplace relates to the employment of a diverse range of individuals.
For a workforce to be diverse, it will typically include a range of people with differences between them, such as:
Age, ability, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, beliefs, sex and sexual orientation.
What is inclusion in the workplace?
Inclusion in the workplace refers to how employees are treated at work as well as how they interact, connect and collaborate with each other. Company culture and procedures can influence and impact the effectiveness of inclusion.
An inclusive company sees each employee feeling safe and accepted to be themselves at work. It will also strive to provide a suitable platform for employee voice on matters regarding inclusion.
To put this into an everyday context – “If diversity means inviting everyone to a party, inclusion is asking them all to dance” – Vernā Myers
Why are diversity and inclusion so important in the workplace?
A business that promotes diversity and inclusion will see many benefits such as:
- Employees perform better when part of an inclusive team
- Absences decrease when employees are happy at work
- Employee loyalty and retention is strong when employees are understood
- Teamwork and collaboration can thrive in a diverse environment
- Discrimination claims are less likely to occur with the correct policies and procedures in place
In addition to nurturing happy, productive, and loyal employees through good diversity and inclusion practices, how you act in this area as a business will be relevant to your compliance with the Equality Act 2010.
What are my legal obligations with equality in my business?
Since 2010, the Equality Act has provided the legal framework for protecting individuals from unfair treatment.
As an employer, you must ensure that your processes and policies comply with the Equality Act. Failure to do so can raise a claim of unlawful discrimination, which could result in you and your business being summoned to an employment tribunal.
It’s also important to be aware that, as an employer, you could be found vicariously liable for actions of your employees which breach the Equality Act – regardless of whether or not you were aware of them.
To fully protect your employees and business from discrimination, it is critical to understand the Equality Act as well as ensuring that your workplace culture is actively inclusive.
Understanding the Equality Act 2010
Equality law applies from before you have even hired someone for your business. From advertising a role, right the way through to parting ways with an employee, and everything that happens in between.
Familiarity with the Equality Act is essential to be able to provide fair opportunities at work and comply with employment law.
The Equality Act is comprehensive, and it is recommended that employers seek professional HR advice to ensure compliance. But a useful introduction for employers is to know the nine protected characteristics which the act covers. These are:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
Positive promotion of diversity, inclusion and equality in the workplace
Documented policies and procedures that promote diversity, inclusion and equality in the workplace are the first step. They will begin to protect employees and the wider business from unfair treatment and disputes involving discrimination.
Actively building on this foundation by considering company culture and the way things are done in your business will lead to developing a robust and reliable strategy on diversity, inclusion and equality.
By embracing diversity and inclusion within your organisation, it will build your business’s knowledge on a variety of aspects including; cultures, faiths, disabilities, sexual orientation, and gender to name a few. It will also enable employees to feel respected and part of a diverse, modern business.
Equality and diversity training is a good idea to put paper policies into real life scenarios and get your team working together. It can also help your defence should you ever face a claim.
It is a sensitive area of HR with complex legal obligations. So we advise that if you are seeking to review your approach to diversity and inclusion, or are considering equality and diversity training, to get in touch with your local HR Dept for professional advice.
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