Why Does Equality Matter in the Workplace?

What do we mean by Equality?

To understand what we mean by equality we first need to understand the definition of equality; the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities.[1]

Society is made up from a wide spectrum of people. There are many differences and these differences can create connections with one another and they can also be used in ways which put certain groups at a disadvantage. This is called discrimination. Discrimination can mean that individuals and whole groups are denied opportunities and treated differently and unfairly based on certain characteristics. Equality seeks to ensure that this does not happen. All individuals and groups should be treated ‘equally’.  For example a woman and a man applying for the same job should be in the same ways. One should not be more favourable than the other based solely on their gender. To do so would be to discriminate against someone.

Under the Equality act 2010 it is a legal requirement for all organisations to promote equality in all of their business and activities and it is the responsibility of public authorities to enforce this whilst also carrying out this themselves. Within the Equality Act 2010 there are certain legal requirements under existing legislation to promote equality which identify nine protected characteristics. These are called the general duties to promote equality.

The nine protected characteristics are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

Equality and Diversity in the Workplace

This is essential for an inclusive society. Diversity in the workplace is enriching and will benefit individuals as well as the organisation they work for. By valuing everyone for the skills and abilities they bring to the organisation rather than on a narrow set of characteristics, everyone will ultimately benefit. The organisation will have the best individuals in the right positions and everyone will be at liberty to participate fully and reach their potential. The UK legislation mentioned above – which covers the nine protected characteristics age – sets minimum standards. Workplaces can and should go beyond this with empowering inclusion strategies that provide every employee and service user with the freedom to contribute and engage fully.

This can be promoted in the following ways:

  • Treating everyone fairly

For example, the rights of women must be the same as their male counterparts. Women should receive equal pay to men.

  • Creating a culture that is inclusive and welcoming to everyone

If an environment is not accommodating of an individual, the environment must be adjusted. If this is not possible other options must be explored to find a solution. For example, providing wheelchair ramps, prayer rooms, breastfeeding spaces etc.

  • Ensuring there is equal access to opportunities such as training, promotion, learning and that everyone is able to fully participate in these opportunities

Access to education and desirable work is a human right. This should be available to everyone and provided fairly and equally based on skills and abilities.

  • Making sure everyone is given the chance to develop to their full potential

For example, a young person on a low income may not be able to afford to transport fees required to attend an interview or training course. This should be taken into account and fees reimbursed or more suitable venues chosen.

  • Giving staff and service users the skills to identify and challenge inequality

Effective and well communicated strategies should be in place and training regularly provided to all staff.

  • Providing environments, buildings and materials which are accessible and inclusive

Everyone should be able to access environments. Whilst it may not always be possible, every consideration and care should be taken to consider the limitations others may experience and to accommodate these.

  • Providing and enforcing equality and diversity policy

This provides the foundation and guidelines for an organisation. They should be carefully considered, compiled in consultation with a wide range of people and communicated effectively.

Equality and diversity is an issue that impacts upon all of us and both organisations and individuals have a responsibility to understand and practice its principles.. It is therefore vital that training is undertaken to understand it fully and put it into practice in every aspect of our society.

You can view our Equality and Diversity online training course here.

[1] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/equality