Legal: Birkett Long LLP
A few things struck me as I explored Google (other search engines are available!). This area of employment law has developed since I entered the profession in 2000. Views differ vastly, and businesses and individuals trying to do the ‘right thing’ can easily take a missed step. It must be difficult for them to keep up to date with an area of law that is developing at a rate of knots.
Before I go further, perhaps I should explain what these terms mean to me. Equality is fair and equal treatment of individuals regardless of any ‘protected characteristic’. It is legally protected, with the first legal protection introduced in England under the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975. Diversity, when it comes to the workplace, is employing individuals with different characteristics, experiences and views. And inclusion in the workplace ensures individuals have a sense of belonging and value. They can use their characteristics, experiences and views to their benefit and that of the organisation.
Culture is strength
Real strength comes when these terms are truly intrinsic to an organisation’s culture, at every level and in every aspect, and there is a recognition that equality, diversity and inclusion overlap. Such organisations generally find that their employees are happy, motivated and engaged; they provide better service to customers and are not afraid to share ideas, collaborate and innovate. Naturally, this results in an enhanced reputation for the organisation, with improved attraction and staff retention and, from a legal perspective, fewer complaints, grievances and claims.
Most employers have had an equality policy for many years. This may be one detailed policy, or several policies covering diversity and inclusion in word, if not deed. A policy is, of course, a good starting point; no organisation should be without one. At the very least, it will set out standards of behaviour that every individual should adhere to. But true commitment involves being an ally of equality, diversity and inclusion; actively calling out and dealing with behaviours, that fall short of an equal, diverse and inclusive workplace.
Sadly, I often see cases where organisations and managers are not only reluctant to address certain behaviours but have actively looked the other way, with lots of different reasons (or excuses) to justify their inaction. Often it is a lack of confidence about addressing it and/or a fear of making a situation worse. This is not only a disservice to the individuals involved but also, ultimately, to the organisation. By contrast, organisations that demonstrate a genuine commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, prove it to be a stairway to success for all.