It is now widely accepted that diversity within businesses creates a competitive advantage. Therefore, HR and business leaders have a large part to play in ensuring conversations around diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace remain high on the agenda. Firms committed to inclusivity may have established employee diversity forums and be regularly running sessions/drop ins to raise awareness of topical issues in this area and keep the conversation alive for their employees. Regularly educating people on diversity in the workplace is a way to remain proactive as an employer. That could be running webinars and podcasts, making sure voices are heard and inviting speakers to share their stories.
There has been a recent legal case in this area, where an older employee from a facilities management company used a term to describe a customer that another employee considered racist. When the case came to be heard, the tribunal found that the term was outdated but not used with any other negative connotations that might have been racial, and the case was dismissed. However, it’s a good example of how employer led training and education can be deployed by firms to reduce disagreements of this kind between employees.
Some organisations set themselves targets to measure their D&I progress, which holds them to account and can be used to demonstrate to themselves and various stakeholders that they are making progress. For example, in some sectors such as construction, where there have typically been more men than women represented, some companies have targeted themselves to reach gender parity among the workforce by a certain date. Others have decided to voluntarily calculate and publish their gender and ethnicity pay gaps.
Many employers are now considering their return to the workplace post pandemic, and lots of those companies will be thinking about the new normal and hybrid working. Companies should ensure a mix of office based and homeworking doesn’t disadvantage some staff. For example, there may be some employees who prefer to work from home more, post pandemic. If so, employers will need to ensure that nobody is overlooked when certain projects are being assigned. Managers should aim to avoid what is known as ’proximity bias ‘which means always giving the work to those in the room. This will ensure the workplace stays inclusive post coronavirus, if hybrid working does become more prevalent.
Finally, employers may need to ensure their employee handbooks are updated and aligned to their current D&I strategies and action plans.
For help and guidance on the topic of diversity and inclusion, including any support your organisation may need in relation to gender or ethnicity pay gap reporting, please contact Kerri Constable.