Equality, Diversity & Inclusion: The Importance of Training
Adopting, promoting and supporting equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace enables employees to participate fully and achieve their potential. It involves valuing everyone, irrespective of their age, disability, race, religion or belief, gender/gender reassignment, sexual orientation, marriage/civil partnership or pregnancy/maternity (also known as the “Protected Characteristics”). The Equality Act 2010 provides that it is against the law to discriminate against an individual who has, is perceived to have or is associated with someone who has, a Protected Characteristic. Aside from legal compliance, striving to achieve equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace can add value to an employer brand, increase productivity and profitability and contribute to employee wellbeing and engagement.
So why is it important that employers provide training on equality, diversity and inclusion? Well, firstly, educating employees is the best way to encourage them to demonstrate acceptable behaviours, to ensure they feel comfortable in the workplace and engage well with their colleagues. It shows that an employer is committed to the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion and reminds staff that unacceptable behaviour will be taken seriously. In addition, in a recent case (Allay (UK) Ltd v Gelhen), the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that because staff equality training had become ‘stale’ after not having been delivered or refreshed for two years, the employer could not rely on the “reasonable steps” defence to a race harassment claim (namely that an employer has done all it can to prevent discriminatory behaviour and should not, therefore, be held liable for the acts of a ‘rogue’ employee). In hindsight, the employer could have helped itself and potentially afforded itself a defence, had it ensured its employees received up to date training on equality, diversity and inclusion.
Here are some top tips for improving equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace:
- Review, Review, Review! It is vital that employers review their policies, rules and procedures to ensure they are free from discriminatory language, remembering that adopting this approach isn’t just a one off, it needs to be a continuous process.
- Support: Senior management will often act as ambassadors for the Company. It is therefore key to have their commitment to the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda so that they can promote the same positively.
- Stakeholders: Employers should ensure their equality, diversity and inclusion strategy aligns with their corporate goals and include ways of addressing the diverse needs of employees as well as their customers and/or clients.
- Training: Implement training programmes on equality, diversity and inclusion and deliver them throughout the workplace on a regular basis. We would recommend that employers refresh such training on at least an annual basis.
- Mechanisms: Introduce/improve mechanisms to deal with all forms of harassment, bullying and intimidating behaviour. Employers should have a zero-tolerance approach to such behaviour and employees should understand that they have a personal responsibility to uphold the same standards.
- Suggestions: Employers should accept suggestions from employees as to ways they could improve their approach to equality, diversity and inclusion. This could be included within an employee engagement survey. Employers should ensure all employees are given a voice to express themselves in an environment they feel comfortable in.
Contact our Employment lawyers in Sussex and Kent
Rix & Kay’s Employment Team offers training in connection with equality, diversity and inclusion. To discuss or book training, please contact Victoria Regan or Amy White in Rix & Kay’s Employment Team.