How to promote diversity and inclusivity in the workplace

All organisations are responsible for providing an inclusive, and equal working experience for all their employees, regardless of age, race, sex, religion, gender reassignment, disability, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership status, or pregnancy and maternity status.

Those who do can enjoy benefits, such as lower rates of employee turnover, higher levels of productivity and innovation, a wider talent pool to hire from, and better industry standing.

While improvements have been made in creating more inclusive and diverse workplaces throughout the UK, there's still progress to be made.

According to Workday, 40% of employees reported feeling excluded in the workplace in 2021, and only 35% of business executive teams believed Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) to be vitally important to a business.

So, how can you promote diversity and inclusivity in your organisation?

Work to highlight and remove bias

Everyone is capable of unconscious bias.

Unconscious biases are assumptions and beliefs that people may hold which they aren't consciously aware of having.

They are often formed by a person's background, upbringing, personal experiences, and society and cultural stereotypes.

Unconscious bias may result in others being treated less favourably or even discriminated against.

To address unconscious biases and their negative effects in the workplace, it's important to identify which biases are being held and what actions reinforce them.

Encouraging employees to take time to self-reflect and record when they've experienced biases; training and transparency in hiring are some of the ways organisations can address bias.

Recognise awareness, cultural, and religious holidays

Businesses can encourage inclusivity at work by acknowledging the various holidays and celebrations of different cultures and religions.

By making sure everyone is aware of these, you could promote multicultural respect.

You could make a note of all the major cultural and religious holidays on work calendars (Microsoft Office 365 even does this for you), so everyone on the team can take them into account when scheduling deadlines and meetings.

Diversity and inclusion training for employees

A diversity and inclusion training program can help identify and address biases and promote respectful and positive interactions in the workplace.

Rather than simply encouraging employees to tolerate cultural and religious differences, the most effective training teaches staff to embrace diverse perspectives in order to work as a team.

Have clear diversity and inclusivity policies

Although not a legal requirement, having diversity and inclusivity policies in place could be a good idea – these are sometimes called 'equal opportunity' policies.

These policies aim to inform employees what behaviour is and isn't acceptable, and how any potential issues are resolved.

As these policies directly affect employees and the work culture, it's important to involve employees and their representatives in making these policies and deciding how they will be enforced.

Ensure equal pay for equal work

A key piece principle of the Equality Act 2010 is the concept of equal pay for equal work.

It is the responsibility of a business or organisation to ensure that men and women in the same job performing equal work must receive equal pay, unless any differences in remuneration can be justified.

It applies to more than just basic pay and also includes:

  • non-discretionary bonuses and performance-related benefits
  • overtime rates and allowances
  • severance and redundancy pay
  • access to pension schemes and their benefits
  • hours of work
  • sick pay
  • fringe benefits like travel allowances and company cars
  • benefits in kind

The right to equal work for equal pay applies to full time, part time, fixed term, zero hours or casual contract workers and it doesn’t matter how long someone has been employed.

Using internal data, organisations can identify which employees are underpaid for the same roles or responsibilities as others.

This data can also help highlight the reasons for this discrepancy.

Write inclusive job ads

Job ads can feel like a relatively simple thing to write when you know what you're after in a prospective employee.

Yet, without realising (sometimes due to unconscious bias), job ads can include language exclusive of a particular protected characteristic, such as age, gender, or disability.

Ads may use seemingly harmless but non inclusive terms, such as using gendered pronouns or state that a role is suitable for a young or older person, which could be illegal.

Employers could consider asking another person, or bringing in a recruitment agency, to review job ads before posting to help remove bias and make them as inclusive as possible.

Get feedback from employees

Employers who communicate with their workforce and seek feedback on their policies can be better equipped to make informed decisions and fix issues.

Anonymous online feedback surveys offer employees the freedom to say what they want without anxiety or fear of repercussions.

This feedback can help employers make short term decisions and inform long term strategies.

Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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