Legal development

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace – is there room for improvement?

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    The Inclusion at Work Panel (the Panel) has recently issued its report on improving diversity and inclusion practice in the workplace (the Report).  

    In 2022 the government published the Inclusive Britain action plan and as part of that plan the independent Panel was established to develop and disseminate resources to help employers drive fairness in the workplace.

    Recommendations of the Report

    The Report sets out the following recommendations:

    • The government should endorse a new framework setting out criteria that employers might apply to their diversity and inclusion (D&I) practice to ensure effectiveness and value for money. Five criteria are suggested for employers to consider when designing, implementing and evaluating good D&I policies and practices. They follow the themes of embedding evidence-informed practice and recruiting and retaining staff inclusively.  By way of example, evidence should be gathered systematically and comprehensively.  The Panel found robust data and insights collection is infrequent.  Collating effective evidence allows employers to identify and target context-specific problems within their own organisation.
    • The government should fund and work with a research partner to develop a digital tool that will allow leaders and managers, in all sectors, to assess for example the efficacy of a range of D&I practices.
    • The Equality and Human Rights Commission should explain and clarify, for example the legal duties and responsibilities for employers in relation to D&I practice. By highlighting recent legal cases and setting out a number of guiding principles, this will help employers manage situations where conflicts of belief arise in the workplace.  The government should also promote and regularly update the April 2023 guidance Positive Action in the Workplace.

    What does the Report mean for employers?

    With the looming General Election it may be that the Report's recommendations on D&I to the government will not be actioned.  

    Nevertheless the Report makes interesting reading as it identifies key themes that we experience around D&I and which can expose organisations to discrimination claims. These include the lack of engagement from senior leadership so D&I is not embedded in business strategy; and employers sometimes misapplying the Equality Act while trying to do the right thing. 

    The information provided is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all developments in the law and practice, or to cover all aspects of those referred to.
    Readers should take legal advice before applying it to specific issues or transactions.


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