Equality and diversity in the workplace

Equality and diversity  exist to ensure an inclusive workplace, one where ‘difference’ is never an obstacle to getting a job or progressing in your career.

In the UK, practises and procedures are in place to ensure all workers are treated equally and given the same opportunities regardless of their age, race, sexuality, gender, disability or culture – or indeed anything else that could be discriminated against.


Legal implications

Companies in the UK are legally required to follow a set of practises to ensure discrimination is eradicated and expectations of equality are met in the workplace.

The legislation is wide ranging and comprehensive, essentially making sure companies adhere to the minimum standards set out by a variety of discrimination acts, including the:

These laws ensure that the best staff from the widest possible pool of potential employees is chosen.

In addition to treating everyone equally, employers must also provide any reasonable adjustments for workers that require it. Reasonable adjustments are anything you need doing to make sure you’re not disadvantaged at work. This can be anything, from slight tweaks to your contract, changing admin and procedural elements, adding a few new things to your building or changing more physical elements of the job.

Remember, every company is different, so they may have their own set of diversity policies. Some employers will just meet the minimum legal standards, while others will have a comprehensive diversity plan in place.


The effect on companies

Equality and diversity in the workplace can affect relations between staff, so a well-implemented diversity programme can create a workplace that’s centred on fairness, dignity and respect. Good diversity programmes may include:

  • Inclusive training
  • Development programmes
  • Good channels for communication and consultation
  • Workable measuring and review processes
  • A clear value system based on respect


How does it affect me?

You may think that a good diversity programme wouldn’t have any effect on you, but you’d be wrong, as they hold plenty of benefits for employees. This includes a simple reassurance that there will be no discrimination in the workplace, so you can be confident in the knowledge that you’ve been employed for your aptitude, just like your fellow colleagues were.

In addition, you’ll benefit from being given the right tools to do your job properly, such as being given flexible working hours, good disabled facilities and good communication between all staff.

But it’s also beneficial to the employer, as having people from all walks of life can be huge for any business, with different perspectives and insights often leading to a dynamic and creative workforce.

And of course, diversity and equality initiatives create respect and understanding throughout the organisation, ensuring a more pleasant working atmosphere for everyone.

Diversity might not always affect you directly but you certainly should notice the benefits – being part of a varied, able workforce where barriers to progression are few should make you feel more positive about your job and be more committed.


What if your boss discriminates?

Sometimes companies don’t always adhere to the rules – either to the minimum standards set out by law, or those they have set themselves.

If you feel disgruntled or discriminated against, there are many routes you can go down and people who can help. These include:

  • Trade unions
  • Citizen’s advice centres
  • Internal grievance procedures
  • ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)

Your first port of call should always be your company’s grievance procedure. You can also talk to your boss, someone higher than your boss, or someone in HR about the issue.

If nothing changes, you can take your case to an employment tribunal, especially if it forced you out of a job. If an employer is found to have failed to meet the minimum standards, they could be given a set penalty or a fine.


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