Diversity and Inclusion

by Gamiel Yafai

Towards diversity and inclusion

As an organisation moves towards diversity and inclusion, the spirit of the place should become one that mutual feelings of dignity and respect, but you should be aware that any positive steps you take to change the balance of the workforce in order to enhance its diversity must remain within the law.

What is the concept of diversity and inclusion not about?

If you are to persuade your organisation to undertake an active policy to ensure diversity and inclusion, it may be necessary to overcome some common misconceptions.

  • It is not about reducing standards.
  • It is not just about removing our prejudices. It is about recognising they exist and then questioning them before we act.
  • It is not a distraction from more important business issues. Like recruitment, it is a standard by which our business performance is assessed.
  • It is not about positive discrimination. It is about positive action.
  • It is not just about minority groups, but everyone who suffers disadvantage.

Dignity and respect

In an inclusive organisation, all employees are treated with dignity and respect. This means treating a person in the manner in which they expect to be treated. It is not so much do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but rather do unto others as they would do unto themselves.

Something to consider

You walk into the lavatory and are a bit taken aback when you see someone washing their feet in the sink. You sort of make an apology and stumble out of the loo. As you go back to your desk, you mention to your colleague that it is disgusting that Rahim has taken off his shoes and socks and is washing his feet in the sink. Your colleague agrees with you and when Rahim walks back shouts out a comment about a cheesy smell.

How does this impact on the dignity and respect being given to Rahim, especially as there are no private shower facilities at work?

Each individual has the right to practice their faith in accordance with the orthodoxy of that religion. If an employer is not able to provide private facilities, then it would be acceptable for Rahim to wash his feet ahead of prayer time in the general facilities made available.

Positive action

Where an organisation has been under-represented by people from a protected characteristic within the preceding 12 months, the organisation may lawfully provide positive encouragement and training to assist persons from such under-represented groups in competing effectively for vacancies/promotions in that organisation.

Something to consider

As you have no women on your Board of Directors you have decided upon shortlisting only women for final interview in order to correct this gross imbalance.

What is your legal position?

You are exposed to claims of sex discrimination by all the male candidates whom you systematically failed to shortlist. This is because, while positive action would have allowed you to provide encouragement and training to support the under-represented group, it does not give you licence to place a person simply because of their protected characteristic.

Affirmative action

Affirmative action is unlawful in the UK (except in specific circumstances). This is where a person or persons are selected for jobs simply because they have a protected characteristic and even where a more qualified person is available to take the post.

Genuine occupational qualification

In a small number of cases, the law accepts that certain characteristics may be a necessary part of being able to do the job (for more, see Genuine occupational requirement).