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Tackling Discrimination – Why is it important?

Equality and Diversity in the workplace may seem to some as an afterthought – today we explore why it’s important, and what adverse effects ignoring discrimination might have on your business.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is defined as “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, sex, or disability.” This can be anything from casually referring to a particular group of people as less skilled, for example, saying women are less capable in manual jobs, to outright abuse towards a group or individual.

It can often present within a company as certain groups receiving lower pay, being offered less opportunities, or being stuck at a certain level of the company and not receiving promotions where others who may not have their characteristics do.

What effects can this have on a business?

“According to our recent State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. The economic consequences of this global “norm” are approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity.” Gallup

Some of the effects are as follows:

  • Increases employee disengagement. Employees who face discrimination may feel unenthusiastic and disengaged from their work, leading to a loss of productivity and skill. They may feel there’s no reason to put effort into their work anymore as they feel they won’t be offered the same opportunities as others anyway. Or, they may feel too stressed and unhappy at work to put their full effort in.
  • Increases employee turnover.  Discrimination can stop people from advancing in a job. Employees who feel safe and supported in the workplace are significantly less likely to choose to leave a workplace – and the opposite is true too. Discrimination can push employees out, increasing recruitment costs.
  • Reduces diversity of ideas. Employees who feel discriminated against will often choose to leave a job, leaving an employee base without much diversity. This can lead to stagnation in your businesses ideas and development.
  • You could be breaking the law. The Equality Act 2010 made it illegal to discriminate against someone based on the 9 protected characteristics. These are age, disability, gender reassignment, sex, sexual orientation, religion or belief, race, marriage and partnership, and pregnancy and maternity. If you discriminate against an employee on one of these grounds, they are within their right to take you to court.

How do we tackle discrimination?

Working to tackle discrimination is an ongoing process. Some ways we can begin to deal with it are:

  • Making your company’s stance on discrimination clear. Clearly making a point against discrimination can help prevent it from occurring.
  • Educate your staff. Holding courses and bringing in EDI trainers can help your staff understand what discrimination is and why they should be combatting it.
  • Support and listen to anyone who brings up concerns around discrimination- Make sure you have a system to allow people to report discrimination against themselves and others safely.
  • Cultivate a diverse workforce. Hiring diverse staff is important for many reasons – not least that a more diverse workforce can reduce discrimination.
  • Diversiti UK can help you and your staff with EDI training with our bespoke courses, such as our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion course. This can help you learn how to build an inclusive and equal workplace.

How to prevent discrimination in the workplace?

Every business should implement the following steps to promote Equality, Diversity & Inclusion and prevent discrimination in the workplace:

Develop and Communicate Clear Policies: Establish comprehensive policies that explicitly state the company’s commitment to preventing discrimination and promoting diversity and inclusion. Communicate these policies to all employees through employee handbooks, training sessions, and regular reminders.

Provide EDI and Anti-Discrimination Training: Conduct regular training sessions to educate employees about different forms of discrimination, such as racial, gender, or age discrimination. Train employees on the importance of respectful and inclusive behaviour, emphasising the legal consequences and negative impact of discrimination.

Foster a Culture of Inclusion: Create a workplace culture that celebrates diversity and fosters inclusion. Encourage open dialogue, respect for differing perspectives, and collaboration among employees. Promote diversity in hiring practices and ensure equal opportunities for advancement.

Establish Reporting Mechanisms: Implement a clear and confidential reporting mechanism for employees to report incidents of discrimination. Assure employees that reports will be taken seriously and investigated promptly. Maintain transparency throughout the investigation process and provide appropriate consequences for discriminatory behaviour.

Lead by Example: Leadership plays a crucial role in setting the tone for an inclusive workplace. Executives and managers should lead by example, demonstrating inclusive behaviours, actively promoting diversity, and holding themselves accountable for preventing discrimination. Encourage leaders to participate in diversity and inclusion training to enhance their understanding and awareness.

Remember, preventing discrimination is an ongoing effort. Regularly assess and review policies and practices to ensure they align with best practices and evolving societal norms. Regularly engage employees in conversations about diversity and inclusion, seeking their feedback and suggestions for improvement.