The modern workplace should be fair for everyone. People should be accepted for who they are and have the same opportunities as everybody else.
The principles of equality and diversity should be upheld in every workplace. But what is the difference between equality and diversity? This blog looks closely at equality, diversity, and inclusion. We’ll explain these concepts and why they are integral to the workplace.
What is Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion? EDI Explained
Look at almost any workplace in the UK, and you’re sure to find a broad range of people. No matter what industry sector you work in, you’re going to be dealing with people from different backgrounds with different religions, sexuality, physical capabilities and opinions.
Effectively managing diverse groups of people isn’t easy. Just a glance at the history of the world can prove that! Also, everybody has the right to the same opportunities at work as everybody else. We should all feel safe, appreciated and welcome in the workplace and have the same chances to develop our careers and skills.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) comes in here. EDI aims to create a fair and inclusive working environment for everyone.
Employers have a moral and legal duty to promote workplace equality and diversity. This starts with a good understanding of what each of the EDI concepts means.
Equality means making sure that everyone has the chance to make the most of their talents and abilities. All opportunities for growth and development should be available to all employees, regardless of age, race, gender, sexuality, religion, beliefs, disability or background.
An example of equality is when a business purposely hides personal information on application forms to avoid discrimination against job seekers.
Equality can be challenging because it doesn’t mean treating everyone the same way. That goes against the spirit of the idea.
Part of equality is ensuring equity. Equality means ensuring everyone has an equal chance to succeed, while equity acknowledges that some people might require special assistance. Ultimately, it’s all about creating a fair working environment for everyone.
Diversity acknowledges that everyone is different and that our differences should be celebrated and appreciated. A genuinely diverse workplace has people with different beliefs and backgrounds.
Respecting diversity doesn’t mean ignoring the differences between people. Instead, it means acknowledging these differences and recognising that we are all unique individuals with valuable skills, life experiences and talents.
The critical concept of inclusion is that everyone has the right to be authentic and voice their ideas and opinions.
Inclusion involves creating a working environment where all employees feel valued and empowered. An inclusive workplace is where all employees feel they can express their ideas or raise criticisms or complaints without fear of being ignored, ridiculed, punished or reprimanded. Inclusion allows everyone to feel safe and able to work together effectively.
What are the Laws Around Equality and Diversity?
The tenets of EDI aren’t just a moral obligation. There are laws backing them up with serious penalties for breaching them.
All UK employers must follow the guidelines in the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act 2010 combined 116 older pieces of legislation, including:
- Sex Discrimination Act 1975
- Race Relations Act 1976
- Disability Discrimination Act 1995
- Equal Pay Act 1970
- Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
The Equality Act 2010 protects the rights of employees and the public against discrimination based on a person’s:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
Penalties for Breaching the Equality Act 2010
Suppose an employee or a potential employee believes that they’ve been discriminated against by your business – they can raise a claim against you in an employment tribunal. A judge will assess the merits of the claim and if it’s successful, you could have to pay a significant fine or face further charges.
As well as the financial costs, being found guilty of a breach of the Equality Act 2010 can result in media attention that can seriously damage the reputation of a business. Customers may start to turn away from you, your existing staff may quit, and suppliers and other companies may not want to deal with you.
An example was the case of medical secretary Eileen Jolly, who was awarded £200,000 after a court found her employer guilty of age discrimination. Ms Jolly was sacked from her position as her employer believed her age prohibited her from learning how to use a computer effectively.
Another example was the case of Meseret Kumulchew, an employee at a coffee chain who was accused by her employer of falsifying documents. Ms Kumulchew suffers from dyslexia, a condition that makes it difficult to read and write. She proved that she had always made her condition known to her employer. An employment tribunal found that her employer had failed to reasonably adjust working conditions to accommodate Ms Kumulchew’s situation.
How to Promote Equality and Diversity in Your Workplace
Although we’ve come a long way, there are still many instances of inequality and discrimination in the workplace, as statistics compiled by HR experts Ciphr show:
- Many women still earn less than their male counterparts for the same roles
- Black people and minority ethnic groups still face prejudice and racism
- Older workers aren’t offered the same opportunities as younger people
- People who have English as a second language also face discrimination
- Shift workers may find they aren’t given the same training or advancement opportunities as their colleagues.
Achieving true equality and diversity at work means overcoming negative stereotypes that lead to discrimination and marginalisation.
Take note of the following suggestions to improve EDI in your place of work:
- Employers and employees should actively try to overcome their unconscious bias
- The workplace should have a dedicated equality, diversity and inclusion policy
- Ensure all internal and external communications are free of discriminatory or sexist language
- Decisions on hiring, training, and advancements should be made using objective criteria
- Staff should be allowed to participate in equality and diversity training
Where to Find Equality and Diversity Training
Avoid accusations of discrimination and be sure that your workplace promotes the principles of equality and diversity.
Sign up for our Equality and Diversity Training course. Together, we can create a fairer, more inclusive, more equitable working environment for everyone.