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Acas survey finds employers confused over equality and diversity issues

Thursday 07 December 2006

Acas today published its latest policy discussion paper which finds there continues to be myths and misconceptions surrounding equality and diversity issues in the workplace.

pdf icon Back to basics - Acas experience of equality and diversity in the workplace [533kb] is based on the findings of its frontline staff who have uncovered areas of misunderstandings for both employers and employees. The paper encourages people interested in the issues to contact Acas with their views.

Some of the key findings are:

  • Disability is an area employers fear and struggle to understand. Common misconceptions include the belief that you cannot sack a disabled person or that you can automatically sack someone if they have been on sick leave for a certain length of time
  • Employers lack detailed knowledge of their responsibilities towards pregnant women and there is growing anecdotal evidence of employers being unwilling to recruit women of childbearing age
  • Race discrimination is an area employers find particularly difficult to confront
  • The most common misconceptions about the new age regulations is that they apply to older workers only
  • One of the most difficult types of employer to persuade of the economic benefits of equality and diversity are those organisations that have recently grown from being relatively small to one managing more staff.

Many of the barriers to equality and diversity in the workplace are due to lack of awareness, entrenched attitudes and embarrassment to discuss the issues. The new Acas paper suggests that the best way of tackling the barriers is to start by demystifying the concepts around equality and diversity; provide support for employers to change the attitudes and behaviour of staff and provide more training for managers.

Acas Chief Executive, John Taylor said:

"Our staff work with thousands of employers and employees each year in a neutral, impartial environment so we see the real issues and behaviours in the workplace at ground level. It seems that although there has been improvement in understanding what equality and diversity means in general there are still vast misconceptions about the detail especially among small employers.

"Acas helps employers and employees understand what the equality and diversity rules mean in practice. Whether through our website, helpline, training or free e-learning packages, our guidance helps workplaces benefit from good employment relations."

Notes to editors

  1. The policy discussion paper Back to basics was written by Sarah Podro of Acas' Strategy Unit. It does not necessarily reflect the view of the Acas Council.
  2. The Acas policy discussion papers series aims to encourage debate about key employment issues of the day. Previous papers deal with alternative dispute resolution and information and consultation. The Policy section on the Acas website also contains Employment relations matters - the quarterly bulletin intended to raise awareness of the importance of employment relations - and Acas Council's response to consultation exercises on employment relations issues.
  3. We welcome your comments and opinions. These should be sent to the author at c/o
  4. Acas' aim is to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. It provides information, advice, training and a range of services working with employers and employees to prevent or resolve problems and improve performance. It is an independent statutory body governed by a Council consisting of the Acas Chair and employer, trade union and independent members.

For press enquiries please contact Kim Huggins or Lou Owen on 020 7210 3894/3920