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Effective monitoring delivers equality and diversity

Diversity in the workplace was once a goal; now it's an expectation. But delivering diversity takes more than just policies and procedures. Monitoring the effectiveness of these policies is crucial, otherwise the best intentions can remain just that - intentions unfulfilled. So, what is monitoring and how is it best carried out?

Monitoring essentially requires a two-stage process: data collection and analysis. The first step is to gather information on the diversity of an organisation's workforce, including potential recruits and existing employees. Diversity information is based on current UK equality legislation which aims to prevent discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion and other protected characteristics.

No-one is obliged to answer monitoring questions, particularly as they can be perceived to be very personal, but the quality of the monitoring is only as good as the quality of the data. That's why it's important to explain to both managers and employees that the process is worthwhile and necessary to make equality policy a reality. Monitoring can also ensure that every employee has the same access to training, promotion and other opportunities. Respondents should be reassured that the information gathered will be strictly confidential. In some cases - in small firms, for example - it might be best to monitor anonymously.

The data is usually then analysed by comparing it with other groups of people within the organisation, in the broader community, or perhaps against national labour market statistics. These comparisons may reveal differences between groups, for example, a disparity between the number of men and women being recruited. Interpretation is important. Differences can be quite normal and not necessarily an indication of bias. But if the disparity is of a significant level, it might be appropriate to probe deeper.

This can be done with an equality impact assessment (EIA), which should uncover root causes and give an indication why there might be inequalities in an organisation. If it shows that people from some groups are not succeeding as well as others, it's time to review procedures and practices. Positive Action is another possibility. Under the Equality Act 2010, this allows employers to favour an individual with an under-represented protected characteristic among candidates who are equally capable of taking a particular vacancy.

Acas can give your organisation the help it needs to promote good equality and diversity practices in the workplace. The Advisory booklet - Delivering Equality and Diversity takes you through all the stages of a successful monitoring procedure and includes a sample equality policy and monitoring form. Acas also offers introductory courses for people new to Monitoring and Impact Assessments to take them step by step through all the key elements of the process.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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