Tackling Discrimination in the WorkplaceHow to ensure your business is a fair and welcoming place for anyone to work

Discrimination in the workplace can include (but isn’t limited to): gender, sexuality, race, religion or disability bias.

As a company, it’s essential to consider these issues seriously and ensure fairness in all procedures and policies.

A diverse and discrimination free workplace is better for everyone; the company, the employees, and even your revenue.

Studies have found that for every 1% rise in gender and cultural diversity, there is a corresponding increase of 3% and 9% in sales revenue, respectively.

Putting measures in place on a company-wide level helps make sure a workplace stays discrimination free.

Written policies

It is essential policies are put in place to tackle discrimination.

When people look for a new job, fair treatment is a major driving factor. Having written policies shows a company is committed to ensuring everyone in their workplace is treated fairly and without discrimination.

All employees should be made aware of these policies when joining the company and be able to refer to them thereafter in their employee handbook. The employer should regularly review the policies to ensure they remain up-to-date and in line with company values.

Start from the hiring process

Written policies help employees feel safe coming to upper management with any potential discrimination issues. However, this doesn’t eliminate discrimination when interviewing new candidates. A lot of the time in the hiring process, unconscious bias can affect the choice of candidate for a role.

For example, a study using identical CVs for all candidates found ethnic minorities needed to send 60% more applications to receive as many call backs as their white counterparts.

There are measures that can be put in place to help relieve this unconscious bias:

  • Standardise all interviews so questions don’t change candidate to candidate. Without realising, by changing questions, an interviewer can unintentionally subtly lead their desired candidate to answer in a way that is more appealing to them as the interviewer.

  • Ensure at least two people sit in on all interviews to help negate unconscious bias.

  • Review all CVs blindly. That is, without any demographic information or a name, so there is no unconscious influence or aspersions cast on a candidate based on their name, gender, ethnicity, etc.

Provide appropriate accommodations

Employers are legally expected to make reasonable accommodations for their employees. The first step of this is understanding an employee’s disability or required accommodation.

Sit down with the employee and discuss their expectations and requests for accommodations.

This could be as simple as a screen reader to help read on-screen text, or something more complicated, such as changing hours or requiring new equipment for them to perform optimally at their job.

It’s important to consider these requests on a case-by-case basis and, wherever possible, make adjustments to their working environment.

Following up with an employee afterwards to ensure they are comfortable and happy with their adjustments is also an integral part of the process and helps them feel heard and valued.

Check in regularly

Over two-thirds of employees would feel uncomfortable raising a claim if discrimination has occurred.

Employees need to know they can trust that any complaints or issues will be handled sensitively by the employer and that those in question will be held accountable for any discrimination.

Regular one-to-ones with staff build trust and faith in leadership, meaning they are more likely to come to their manager should any issues arise.

Keep detailed records

Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory behaviour. Every reported instance of discrimination needs to be taken extremely seriously and dealt with swiftly to show the utmost care and diligence.

Any time an employee comes forward with a complaint regarding discrimination, it is essential detailed records are kept of the situation; the cause, the escalation, and the resolution.

These records show steps taken as an employer to tackle any discrimination occurring in the workplace and demonstrate that all due diligence occurred, including following up with the employee in question.

Track and understand your metrics

Finally, in order to ensure a workplace is discrimination free, it's important an employer tracks whether the procedures and policies put in place are effective.

There are more and more reports of businesses doing this; 60% of companies now have metrics in place to track their diversity and inclusion goals.

Measuring progress on these initiatives displays a company-wide commitment to ensuring everyone in the workplace is treated fairly and without discrimination.

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