As an employer, it is your duty to promote a workplace that supports equality and diversity. At first, this may seem like an unnecessary afterthought or an added headache. Getting to grips with equality laws, and equipping your building with the facility to accommodate a disability, for example, may seem costly and challenging. However, by doing so, not only are you fulfilling legal requirements, but your company will benefit because of it.
Why should I have an equal workforce?
Most of us have encountered discrimination at some point in our lives. In our years at school, we will have witnessed or been subject to bullying. Anybody considered different, for example, those who wear glasses, or have a speech impediment, are often ridiculed by their peers. Consider the old saying, ‘sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you’. Utter nonsense. We are sensitive beings, and we can be affected mentally if we are constantly belittled.
If you don’t consider an equal and diverse workforce, you are discriminatory, just like those bullies at school. The Equality Act of 2010 states nobody should be discriminated against, either because of age, sexuality, gender, marital status, race, and disability. Therefore, you, as the employer, are responsible for creating a workforce and an ethos where everybody is accepted, and all employment laws are followed.
How can diversity benefit me?
If you are intent on employing people who think, talk and look like you, then your workplace will be an uninteresting place to be. You may as well employ a workforce of robots if that is the case.
By hiring a diverse range of people, you will open your company up to new perspectives and experiences that might complement and enhance your vision. The job market is greater than ever as the retirement age increases, and more women than ever are returning to work, after having a family or choosing a career in its place. Gone are the days of a company that is made up only of the white middle-class men, thank goodness.
Having a diverse range of people working for you means you will also be able to reach a higher demographic. Each will have the experience in dealing with different types of clients, so your business and reputation as a fair employer will improve.
What do I need to do?
When advertising for new employees, don’t discriminate in your wording. The job should be open to all unless there is a legitimate reason why it shouldn’t. For example, you may not choose to employ a school leaver because the job requires a certain level of experience.
You will need to ensure the building you work from is equipped with appropriate facilities and resources for everybody. For example, when hiring somebody who requires wheelchair access, the building will need to accommodate them. Doorways will need to be wide enough for wheelchairs to get through, and light switches and door handles will need to be within reach. Visit the website www.terrylifts.co.uk/lifts/wheelchair-disabled-steplifts to see what other types of adjustment you will need to make.
You need policies in place outlining how your workplace supports equality and diversity. Ensure everybody on your team has access to the policy, and that they read it thoroughly. It is a good idea to have a specific training day on the subject ensuring nobody has an excuse if they are ever accused of being discriminatory themselves.
Everybody on your team deserves the same opportunities. For example, training, promotions, holidays, bonuses, and pay, should be equal across the board. Again, don’t promote somebody for the sake of a tick box, but be wise and fair to all.
There will be times when discrimination and bullying will take place at work. Be mindful that this isn’t you, but if somebody confronts you about it, be humble and accept your mistake. If an employee comes to you in a distressed state because of bullying, be respectful, even if you think the incident is minor. It has likely taken a lot of courage for that person to come to you, so listen and take appropriate action. You need to resolve conflicts as soon as you can, to maintain a happy workforce and productive company. If you fail to do so, and you ignore the situation, then you and your company may face legal action.
By creating a workplace, there are a few other areas you should be mindful of. Individual staff members may require special dispensation. For example, those from specific cultural and religious groups may require time off for religious holidays. Employees of either gender expecting a child will need time off for paternity and maternity care. Having procedures in place for such eventualities will stand you in good stead when they occur.
Once everything is in place, the advantages of having a group of highly talented, unique individuals will become clear. There is a lot of hard work ensuring your company is up to scratch, but it will be worth it.
Remember, it is your job to lead from the top. The way you behave and act towards others will inspire others to do the same. It is tough being a manager of a company, or a leader of a small team of people, and it will be demanding. Sometimes you will be thrown into unexpected situations and be made to think on your feet. It is good to have a diverse range of people with you but, as in any walk of life, they will all bring their personal and professional baggage to the table as well. The bottom line is, you need to deal with it. Be kind and respectful to all. Be fair and honest about what you expect from each person. Prepare yourself for the challenges and obstacles that come from working with people, but enjoy their company too. They may just be able to teach you something.