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What does workplace inclusion really mean?

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Inclusion, diversity and equality are words we hear frequently and we know how important they are in life generally but what does inclusion in the workplace really mean?

Inclusion shouldn’t be a box-ticking exercise and policies alone are not enough to build an inclusive workplace. At its most basic level, it is about ensuring that no one feels left out because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, or other factors such as social background. Ultimately, an inclusive working environment allows people to be themselves at work.

Achieving diversity in the workplace is about ensuring the people who work within your organisation are representative of wider society. Diversity is the mix of people who make your organisation unique.

Equality forms the foundation of inclusion and it’s important that employers understand that equality does not necessarily mean treating everyone the same, it is about taking into account differences appropriately.

Equality and diversity can bring with them many challenges, so to promote workplace inclusion, you need to consider how your staff will work together on a daily basis.

At recruitment level, an employer can ensure that all job descriptions are written with gender-neutral language and state your commitment to building a diverse and inclusive culture.

Other questions to consider:

  • Are your training sessions structured in a way that lets everyone get involved?
  • Are the benefits and perks you are offering accessible to all of your employees, or just a select few? Remember to take age, disability, race and belief, pregnancy and other factors into consideration.
  • Do your employees feel comfortable communicating with their peers and management? Are channels in place for them to express their needs and any concerns they may have?
  • Are you letting employees express their ideas, which can create innovative business solutions and benefit everyone?

As an employer, you have a legal obligation to comply with the Equality Act and stamp out any discrimination from your workplace. This means developing policies and practices that guarantee people are treated according to their needs.

Diversity in the workplace can have numerous benefits to you as an employer. Put simply, the greater the mix of people in your business, the greater the mix of skills, experiences, perspectives and ideas you can draw on. But the benefits of diversity and equality cannot be fully achieved without creating an inclusive environment.

As well as reducing the risk of disputes and tribunals, an inclusive working environment that allows diversity and equality to flourish, brings several business and financial benefits.

More information for employers can be found on the Inclusive Employers site.

Get your organisation involved in National Inclusion Week – it’s free to take part and will 23-29 September 2019.