Sustainable Advantage Through Equality In Organisations

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  1. Frequently Asked Questions
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There are a number of questions around equality subjects that we are asked on a regular basis. We have listed these below. If you have a question that does not feature here or need further advice on any equality, diversity and inclusion issue please contact: Julie.kaya@sateo.co.uk There is also a links page on the ‘Resources’ page that can signpost you to particular website for further information.
What is meant by the term equality?
Equality is often defined as treating everyone the same. In fact, many of the problems we create are because we do treat people the same! People often need to be treated differently to achieve inclusion. As an example, if we provided the same uniform for everyone regardless of difference some people are likely to be disadvantaged. This could be because of their religion or belief, a disability or their gender. Women who work in construction or those who need to wear personal safety equipment often complain because the fit isn’t right because it has been created with other users in mind; this could even result in a safety risk.
Isn’t diversity another word for equality?
No, diversity just means difference. Our aim is to achieve equal outcomes through good inclusion practice.
What do we mean by inclusion and inclusive practice?
This means more than just having a policy. It means talking and listening to staff and ensuring they are able to tell you what they may need to help them be equally productive. Having an open and inclusive environment means not making assumptions about what people may need and creating the space for people to tell you. Organisations should take the time to think about and plan how staff work together on a practical, daily basis. Do you hold regular meetings at 8am or 5pm on Fridays? Are the benefits and recognition you give to reward suitable for all people or just a few? Is your recruitment mainly word of mouth? Are you policies written in jargon or in easily accessible, plain language? Do you encourage your training providers to be disability/ gender and culturally aware so everyone can join in and get the most from what you are offering?
Why do we need to bother with equality and inclusion, surely it’s just common sense?
Despite a long history of legislation and ‘equal opportunities’ policies, organisations still have large numbers of people who face daily discrimination. Facts and figures
  • Most of the population will be a carer – or be a partner of one – at some point in their lives. In 75% of couples with children under 5, both partners are working
  • We all face the employment challenges of ageing although over 75% of those over 50 want to work past retirement
  • We all face possible or actual disability. Mental health affects a startling one in four of us and
  • The fastest growing population in the UK is mixed and yet Black, Asian and Minority ethnic people will not get equality in employment at current rates for over 100 years.
It is good business to invest in equality, diversity and inclusion programmes and inclusive practice is something everyone needs to work at.
What is a protected ‘characteristic’?
The Equality Act 2010 protects against discrimination on the following nine grounds or characteristics:  
  1. Age
  2. Sexual Orientation
  3. Disability
  4. Gender reassignment
  5. Marriage and civil partnership
  6. Pregnancy and maternity
  7. Ethnicity, ethnic/ national origin/ ‘race’ or colour
  8. Religion or belief
  9. Sex
  In addition, The Human Rights Act, Article 14 prohibits discrimination on any grounds. For example, some people are discriminated against on grounds such as socio-economic background, carer or ex-offender status. Different organisations will therefore have additional groups they may wish to consider when looking at inclusion and inclusive practice.
Isn’t equality and diversity really about giving some people preferential treatment at the expense of others?
No. Inclusive practice means treating everyone equally on merit and not treating some people unfairly because of their disability, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief and so on. Unfortunately, the data has long evidenced minority groups, those ‘protected characteristics’ under the law still face considerable discrimination, albeit because of ignorance or unconscious bias. Employers are advised to monitor diversity at each stage of the employee lifecycle and throughout recruitment processes in order to offer evidence their approach and the environment is fair, open and transparent to everyone equally.
What is positive action?
These are actions taken by a business to encourage under-represented people/ groups into particular areas of activity. For example, women in engineering or technology or men in non-traditional work such as primary teaching or nursing. Most employers will want to monitor the diversity of their workforce so that they have sound evidence for basing recruitment or promotion decisions on and for releasing resources.  It is critical to communicate why to avoid contributing to existing myths and unhelpful perceptions. There is a great deal of confusion about positive discrimination and positive action. Even where an employer has two potential candidates who are the equally qualified the employer still needs to bear in mind the third part of the main duty of the Equality Act – to ‘foster good relations’ between people.
What is harassment and victimisation under the law?
Harassment is when a person is subjected to a ‘hostile, intimidating, degrading, humiliating, offensive environment’. It includes the environment a person works in or is required to enter. Mugs, pens and other items people may display at work including emails and screen savers or posters/ magnets are all potentially evidence of such an environment. Employers and service providers need to be aware of items that highlight a difference (e.g. gender) between people. It does not matter whether or not the offensive behaviour was intended or was considered a joke. Harassment can be persistent or an isolated incident towards one or more people. Harassment can be experienced by a third party in an environment where not targeted at a specific individual. Victimisation is retaliation against someone because they have made a complaint or allegation. It is also unlawful and employers should take any related complaints very seriously.
What forms can harassment take?
  • Verbal abuse – e.g. belittling someone
  • ‘banter’ or some jokes, especially if highlighting differences
  • Graffiti/ gossip, repeating personal information
  • Embarrassing and/or insensitive comments
  • Leering and sexual innuendo
  • Physical contact – patting and unwanted touching
  • Sexual advances
  • Ridicule, slander, gossip
  • Isolation and deliberately ignoring someone
  • Unfounded or harshly delivered criticism
  • Setting unattainable targets
What do I need to know about disability?
The Equality Act 2010 brought in new provisions. These limit the circumstances when job applicants can be asked about their health prior to the job being offered. Pre-employment health Checks must be objectively justified. For example, only be asked if intrinsic to the specific job and not be generic. All questions asked must be essential to the specific job and the employer needs to consider what reasonable adjustments could be made for an individual who may wish to apply. Employers should ask if reasonable adjustments are needed to prepare or apply for any role and it is good practice to diversity monitor at all stages unless you are a small employer. Many employers will wish to review their application forms to make sure questions that were historical are still legal. For example, does your form ask for details of a driving license? If so, ask yourself is this really a requirement.  Or is the requirement an ability to travel to another site occasionally in which case alternative arrangements are straightforward. If you ask applicants to undertake psychometric tests check they have been assessed for bias. People will often deselect themselves so make it clear to people that you welcome their application, regardless of any disability as long as they can perform the role (with adjustments where necessary).
What does the law say about Pay Secrecy Clauses?
The Equality Act makes it unlawful for you to prevent or restrict your employees from having a discussion to establish if differences in pay exist that is related to a protected characteristics. It also makes terms of the contract of employment that require pay secrecy unenforceable because of these discussions.