Equality and Diversity – what does this really mean?
This phrase, ‘Equality and Diversity’ is used daily in organisations and yet perhaps not fully understood or implemented. It’s not always clear what the difference is or how you can help to make positive changes. In our leadership and management roles it’s essential that we’re clear and know how to improve future working practices.
What’s the difference between Equality and Diversity?
Equality of opportunity is about ensuring everybody has an equal chance to take up opportunities and also to make full use of the opportunities on offer and to fulfil their potential.
Diversity is about celebrating and valuing how different we all are. This is strongly linked with promoting human rights and freedoms, based on principles such as dignity and respect. Diversity is about valuing and taking account of people’s different backgrounds. It’s important to then encourage and use those differences to create a productive and effective workforce.
So how are we doing? – here are some (not so good) examples
- Gender – We still have a way to go. Women in the UK, Iceland, France and Cyprus, will work for nothing during November and December. This is due to the gender pay gap.
- Maternity – Recent research reports that 77% of pregnant women and new mothers (some 390,000 women) reported negative or discriminatory experiences at work. (EHRC and BIS). Research from Citizens Advice also shows a 60% rise in maternity related discrimination in this last year.
- Age – The CIPD reported that in the UK we have 9.4 million people in employment over the age of 50, equivalent to over 30% of the workforce. ‘Many industries have a poor record on retaining older workers. There is a large drop-off in the number of workers between the ages of 45–49 and 60–64. In particular, finance, public administration and ICT all see a drop of greater than 60% between the number of workers they employ in their late forties and in their late sixties. Such falls suggest that these sectors are not doing enough to support longer working lives. They will likely be hampered by the loss of skilled and experienced staff.’
- Disability – An employment tribunal recently ordered a York School to pay £180,000 to an ex-teacher for disability discrimination and not making reasonable adjustments.
Why should we care?
We should care because it’s the law and mistakes can be costly! However there are many other reasons. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has produced a report on the Business Case for Equality and Diversity. (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-business-case-for-equality-and-diversity-a-survey-of-the-academic-literature). which includes potential advantages. For example, having staff with roots in other countries and cultures can help a firm build relations with a wider range of customers. This means they can market its products or services more appropriately and sensitively. Enhancing its brand reputation is a driver for some companies. This helps to widen the possible pool of applicants so the best candidate is selected for the job and retention of current staff is improved as employees are proud of their place of work.
What can we do?
Legislation (such as the Equality Act, 2010) and future Legislative changes (Gender pay gap reporting – commencing April 2017) will force organisations to take action. Outside of legislation, there’s a lot that we as Managers, Leaders and HR can do to help.
- The shift towards part-time and self-employment is continuing. Practices will need to be introduced which match the changing demands of the employee with the business needs.
- This shift will extend throughout the older workforce. The growing number of older consumers will also shift the demand for future products and services. This could lead to new areas of business development. So businesses need to keep investing in training, development and performance management. Training should be offered, regardless of age, however it has been reported that the older workforce are often overlooked, or not encouraged to take part. Training opportunities for employees of all ages is vital in ensuring they continue to feel motivated and challenged in their role.
- Improving the capability of Line Managers. The challenges a Line Manager will face due to managing the needs of a diverse workforce will continue to build and so training should be offered for this too. Improving line managers’ people skills was among the top three steps taken to improve staff retention as reported in a 2015 CIPD survey.
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