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Equality within the Workplace

Published: Monday 3rd September 2018

White male staring down a black male

While much has been done in recent years, both at corporate and government level, to address the issue of inequality in the workplace, discrimination still takes place. Barely a month goes by without some media story chronicling the ongoing debate on the pay gap between male and female workers, or racism, age discrimination and homophobia in the workplace.

The latest piece of employment anti-discrimination legislation, the Equality Act of 2010, is perhaps the most far-reaching change to the law to tackle the issues of abuse when it comes to equal pay, or discrimination against Black, Asian, Hispanic, Chinese or gay workers – as the changes have been designed to consolidate much of the equality legislation that came before.

Sports Direct under fire

However, problems still arise, as evidenced by the criticism levelled against Sports Direct last year by the Equality and Human Rights Commission when the company banned staff from speaking languages other than English. This occurred just a year after another case when women returning from maternity leave took legal action against the company after being moved onto zero-hours contracts, losing the right to be included on the company’s bonus scheme.

Is this only the tip of the iceberg?

It’s not uncommon for workers, whether male, female, straight or gay, to feel that discrimination is rife in other areas too. Almost three-quarters of the workforce feel that age discrimination is common. Over half of over-55s say they have been discriminated against on the grounds of age, and, interestingly, even more 25-34 year-olds feel they have been discriminated – for being too young!

Worryingly, in a survey just this year, half of employees say they have witnessed racism in the workplace, yet only one in five reported the incident to HR.

Gender discrimination in the workplace is a big feminist issue right now with the #MeToo movement dominating the headlines. Yet, things may be improving in the UK. When the World Economic Forum looked at the gender pay gap in 144 countries, the UK came 15th, probably due to the fact that UK employers must now report their gender pay gap statistics.

Meanwhile, Islamophobia is on the increase due to Muslim links to terror attacks in UK. A recent study found that adult Muslim’s are less likely to be in work (less than 20%, compared to 34.9% of the general population).

What can be done?

All this is happening despite a jobs boom meaning vacancies in many sectors, including a wealth of building and construction jobs, receptionist jobs, education jobs, IT jobs and even public sector jobs. Clearly, employers need to educate their staff better in order to report incidents of discrimination and put in place policies that tackle discrimination both when recruiting and when it comes to promotion. One area where experts believe more needs to be done is in subconscious discrimination.

That said, some sectors are known for embracing diversity. Certainly, when it comes to government jobs, security officer jobs and nursing jobs, there is a lot of inclusivity, although in many cases, these can be low paid sectors, where many employees barely make a living wage. In higher paid jobs, such as project manager jobs, for instance, change is slower.

If you’re looking for employment opportunities in companies that are making a real effort to tackle workplace discrimination, start by visiting Zoek UK.

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