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Human resources

Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace

Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace
Sabah Rafiq

By Sabah Rafiq

01 Oct 2021

Creating an inclusive workplace for employees and customers makes your business a great place to work. This year National Inclusion Week is running from 27  September until 3 October. The theme for 2021 is unity and is designed to celebrate everyday inclusion in all its forms.

2020 was a challenging year not just because of the pandemic but global events such as the Euros, in which we saw football players being subject to racist remarks, bringing to light to long-standing issues around diversity and inclusion. The topic of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equality continues to remain centre stage so it’s important to make sure you are doing everything you can to build best practices into your workplace.

What’s the difference between Diversity, Equality, and inclusion?

Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion, are often used interchangeably however, although closely linked, each means something slightly different.

Diversity: Refers to the demographic differences in a group – these are known as protected characteristics and are referenced in UK Law:

  •  Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy and Maternity
  • Religion and Belief
  • Sex and Sexual orientation

Equality: Equal rights and opportunities are afforded to all. An equal approach emphasises that everyone should not be treated the same, but according to their needs. The 2010 Equality Act in the UK protects those with protected characteristics from direct and indirect discrimination in the workplace.

Inclusion: Often defined as ‘to feel valued, accepted and supported regardless of background, identity, or circumstance’.

Many employers focus on increasing diversity within the workplace, however focusing on diversity without inclusion is likely to backfire on business owners, as the true benefits of having a diverse and representative workforce won’t be harnessed if your employees don’t feel comfortable to be their true selves in the workplace, or feel like their voice is not heard. Increasing diversity in the workforce is greater than a numbers game. It’s about building an inclusive culture and environment.

In the same vein, to build an inclusive culture, it’s important to think about equality making sure all employees have equal rights and opportunities. Getting this wrong can lead to legal challenges resulting in financial loss and reputational damage.

What are the benefits of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace?

More and more we are seeing employees, customers, and investors looking to business owners to take proactive action to foster diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environments. A company’s policies and practices on DEI can impact their ability to attract talent, customer loyalty, and investor decisions.

Workplace inclusion is defined in a variety of ways and can be understood from an organisational and individual perspective.

At an individual level, workplace inclusion relates to feelings of belonging, having a voice, and being valued for your unique individual skills and abilities. According to research by the CIPD, individual workplace inclusion links to positive team outcomes, reduced absenteeism, and enhanced job commitment, suggesting that inclusive behaviour allows individuals to work together effectively and creates a healthy environment for employees.

At an organisational level, workplace inclusion involves valuing difference, allowing all employees the opportunity to develop, participate and use their voice to drive change, irrespective of their background. The same research found workplace inclusion at an organisational level links to enhanced team knowledge sharing, innovation, and creativity.

In summary, the benefits highlighted can help you develop new products and ideas for customers, reduce absenteeism and the cost of absence to your business, increase employee engagement which should have a positive impact on productivity and talent attraction and retention.

On top of the business benefits outlined there is also a moral case to focus on DEI as it’s the right thing to do.

Top tips for creating an inclusive and diverse workplace

1. Make sure you have fair policies and practices in place

Having clear and inclusive policies and practices within your business, which help facilitate opportunities for all employees to progress, and participate in any decisions or changes that impact them, will help to drive an inclusive working environment. It’s important that policies are backed up by action and also are regularly and well-communicated with employees and line managers, so all are really clear on their responsibilities.

Policies and practices could range from specific things such as reasonable adjustments and Diversity and Inclusion policies to broader practices such as flexible working. We would recommend you review standard practices throughout the employee life cycle, such as recruitment, performance management, and training, making sure risks of any unconscious bias are reduced and potential barriers for under-represented groups are removed.

2. Educate line managers and employees

Both line managers and employees should have Diversity and Inclusion training. The training should be regular, relevant, and maintained. It’s important the training is robust and complements the business’s policies and practices. For line managers, there is a need to role-model inclusion as their behaviour sets the tone for others. All employees, regardless of level, should be made aware of bias and how this can impact decision-making and engagement in the workplace. Furthermore, it is a legal requirement under the Equality Act, to include an understanding of what constitutes discrimination and harassment. Sometimes something that may seem innocent such as office jokes or banter, can have dire consequences for individuals and businesses.

3. Actively engaging with work-life balance programmes

Companies that embrace work-life balance and flexible working generally find this contributes to building an inclusive culture, and positively impacts the diversity of the workforce. More and more companies have seen the benefits of different types of flexible working practices, as a result of the pandemic, and plan to continue to provide more flexible working options, moving forward. We are also seeing greater demand for flexibility to continue from employees.

Providing different flexible options linked to working patterns and/or location can enhance inclusion by helping people into work and stay in work. Flexible working offers different patterns of working that the traditional full-time, fixed-location model may be unable to achieve, enabling better inclusion of workers from different backgrounds and circumstances.

What can Mentor do to help?

Our HR partner, NatWest Mentor can provide the support you need to drive important change in your organisation, such as:

  • Provision of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equality Policies.
  • Dedicated employment law and HR consultancy support
  • Access to 24/7 employment law advice from our team of experts
  • Provision of training- in-house, virtually via zoom and e-learning.

For further guidance on the above, see more on our HR Consultancy services here, or contact a member of our team today.


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