The Importance Of Preventing Discrimination

Written by Nicola Wylie
Last updated March 25, 2024

This employer’s guide breaks down the importance of preventing discrimination in the workplace and how your organisation can achieve this.

1 in 5 people has experienced workplace discrimination, according to a recent study of international workers. And 22% of UK employees reported facing prejudice in their place of work.

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure your organisation is inclusive, fair, and compliant with local laws. That includes understanding the different types of discrimination that exist, the impact on workers, and measures to prevent unfair practices.

For many businesses, this is a daunting task. From changing legislation to evolving DEI strategies, it’s not always clear what the best course of action is.

We’ve put together this guide to walk you through everything you need to know to adopt a zero-tolerance policy to workplace discrimination.

In just seven minutes, you’ll learn:

  • The different types of discrimination
  • Why it’s crucial to protect employees from unfair treatment
  • Your responsibilities as an employer, under the Equality Act 2010
  • Strategies to prevent workplace discrimination 

Types of Discrimination at Work

One of the most fundamental lessons to learn as an employer is that discrimination can take many forms, both direct and indirect. And before you can stamp it out in your business, you must first understand how it can manifest itself.

Here are some examples of the different types of workplace discrimination to watch out for.

  • Gender discrimination – Treating workers differently, making assumptions about them, or using coded language based on their gender.
  • Age discrimination – Using an employee’s age to make assumptions about their ability, attitude, or intelligence or treating them differently due to their age.
  • Racial discrimination – Treating employees differently due to their ethnicity, race, or skin colour.
  • Disability discrimination – Making assumptions, using loaded language, or treating employees with disabilities differently. This also includes not making reasonable workplace adjustments to ensure workers have an equal chance.
  • Sexual orientation discrimination – Treating a staff member differently or making assumptions about them based on their sexual identity.
  • Socio-economic discrimination – Making assumptions or differentiations based on an employee’s background.

Not all discrimination in the workplace is direct. In many cases, employees from underrepresented groups experience indirect biases. This can come in the form of using non-inclusive language, making assumptions about them based on certain characteristics, or being overlooked for promotions.

Related content: Three Common Barriers To Equality, Diversity, & Inclusion | Aspiring to Include 

Next, we look at the Equality Act 2010 and how it protects workers from discriminatory behaviour.

The Importance of Preventing Discrimination in the Workplace

There’s no doubt that eliminating prejudice and unfair treatment in your organisation is the right thing to do. But that’s not te only motivation to take charge today.

Here are four key benefits of implementing a zero-tolerance policy against discriminatory behaviour.

  • It’s your legal obligation – As an employer, you must legally be proactive in preventing discriminatory practices in your workplace. Failure to do so could result in legal action being taken against your business.
  • Diverse teams perform better – Inclusion has a direct (positive) impact on performance and productivity. For instance, companies with higher female representation at the executive level are 48% more likely to outperform their competitors. 
  • You can attract top talent67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity when looking for employment opportunities. This means that by cultivating an inclusive workplace, you can attract the best candidates to your organisation.
  • Increase employee well-being – Discrimination can have a significant negative impact on workers’ mental health and job satisfaction. By contrast, promoting fair and inclusive workplace practices can contribute to a happier, healthier environment. 

What is the Equality Act 2010 and Protected Characteristics?

As a UK employer, you must ensure you comply with the Equality Act 2010. This key piece of legislation outlines the measures your organisation must take to prevent discrimination in the workplace.

In addition, it underscores nine protected characteristics:

  • age 
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race, religion or belief
  • sex and sexual orientation

Every UK employer has a duty to understand what these protected characteristics are and that they are complying with the law to promote workplace equality, diversity, and inclusion.

You may also be interested in: Breaking Down Bias in the Workplace

In the next section, we deep dive into three steps you can take today to prevent discrimination in your workplace.

How to Prevent Workplace Discrimination in Your Workplace

Tackling discrimination and unconscious bias isn’t an overnight job. Instead, it requires a behaviour change in your organisation that starts from the top.

While it will take time to reach your EDI goals and cultivate the inclusive culture you’re aiming for, there are some measures you can take today to start the journey.

Here are three ways to mitigate discrimination in your business. 

1. Invest in employee education

Training is one of the best ways to raise awareness and educate your employees on discrimination. 

From knowing how to spot discriminatory behaviours, identifying unconscious biases, and the legal obligations of the business, training ensures your teams are on the same page. 

It also encourages staff members to develop empathy and understanding for each other, gaining a deeper understanding of the impact of their words and actions.

This training should start at the highest level in your company, including senior managers and executives. That way, you can see a trickle-down effect as you roll training out to employees of all levels.

Here are some of the topics your discrimination training should cover:

  • Protected characteristics and their implications
  • Identifying unconscious bias and strategies to prevent it
  • Inclusive recruitment and promotion processes
  • How to handle concerns and complaints concerning discrimination
  • Inclusive language and how to use it in the workplace

Additional content: What Is Cultural Competency Training?  

2. Review current anti-discrimination policies

Most employers in the UK already have policies in place designed to prevent workplace discrimination. If you don’t, it’s essential that you implement these policies immediately.

More than a piece of paper, anti-discrimination policies highlight your commitment to inclusivity in your organisation. This alone can make employees feel safer and more confident to speak up if they experience unfair treatment.

Your policies should align with the Equality Act, and cover the following core elements:

  • An anti-discrimination policy that clearly outlines what you consider discrimination and harassment, how to report incidents, and the consequences of this behaviour
  • Reasonable workplace adjustments guidelines that ensure all staff members have equal access to opportunities and the resources they need to perform their jobs
  • A commitment to equal opportunities that clearly states your commitment to providing all candidates and workers with the same opportunities

Make sure you regularly review these policies and reporting procedures to ensure they align with the latest legislation and best practices.

What’s more, holding regular check-ins with employees to get their feedback can be insightful. This feedback allows you to understand how your current policies are performing and where you need to make some adjustments.

3. Rethink your job descriptions

The thing about unconscious bias is that we don’t know it’s happening. For instance, your job description may unknowingly contain non-inclusive language that’s putting great candidates off.

But, since nobody in your team is from that underrepresented group, you may not realise it’s happening.

From the words and tone you use to the job criteria and experience you require. All of these elements can make certain job seekers feel like they can’t apply for your roles or wouldn’t be a good fit.

Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes from a trusted source can be just what you need. This is certainly the case when it comes to weeding out discriminatory language from your job descriptions.

Getting Inclusivity experts, such as the Aspiring to Include team to screen your job ads can help you prevent discriminatory language from seeping into your listings.

We assess your current job ads against our Inclusive Language Checklist and provide you with a score and comprehensive feedback. That way, you can ensure you attract diverse candidates and build an inclusive workplace.

We Can Help You Build a More Inclusive Workplace

Stamping out bias, prejudice, and discriminatory behaviours in your organisation requires a proactive approach. The good news is that you’ve already taken an important first step by reading this guide.

Now that you have a clear understanding of the importance of preventing discrimination, the relevant laws, and some actions to get started, the next step is to work with our experts.

We offer a range of services to help your business become more inclusive, starting with the recruitment process. Here are some of the ways our industry experts can support you:

Need a service you don’t see on the site? Get in touch to discuss our bespoke Employer Packages, tailored to your recruitment needs.

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Last Updated: Tuesday March 5 2024
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