Inclusion is being talked about more and more in UK workplaces. It seems that employers are seeing business benefits of engaged, more productive employees and the positive impact it has on their reputation. Equal Opportunities Officers and Diversity Managers are being transformed into Heads of Inclusion and D&I Directors. Yet the number of discrimination claims being filed with the courts is on the rise. In fact, the number of accepted claims in UK Employment Tribunals has risen 400% between 1998 and 2010, reaching upwards of 40,000 annually.
But this trend is worrying some employers. As much as they understand the benefits of a more diverse workforce, some are asking if they are putting the organisation at risk by having a workforce they don’t understand and are unable to manage.
It certainly won’t pay to be diverse if you don’t create an inclusive environment in which people can work together creatively and effectively. If people don’t feel that they fit into the culture, they will quickly become disengaged. Managers and employees need the tools to communicate with and understand each other, not just policies to protect them against discrimination claims. It is one thing to ensure a dress code, for example, accommodates religious observance, quite another to create an environment where someone feels comfortable and valued, even when they’re the only one wearing a yarmulke or hijab.
The move to combine decades of discrimination law into the Equality Act in 2010 highlighted the importance of a holistic approach to diversity, and it protects employees who are in the majority as well as the minority. Even the most inclusive organisations sometimes face discrimination claims. That’s why it’s important your line managers are well trained, understand their obligations and believe they will be supported if a problem arises.
Confident, competent managers will develop creative and successful teams, which will be naturally diverse, and will thrive in an inclusive culture.
- Rachel Krys