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Steve Williams: The four principles of equality in workplaces

Tuesday 04 August 2015

Acas' Head of Equality sets out top tips on what organisations can do to embed equality as a key value.

Steve Williams Steve Williams

Steve Williams has been Head of Equality at Acas since 2001. Before that he was Head of Race Relations at the Employment Advisory Service.

 

 

 

Handling equality issues in the workplace is often perceived by front line managers as a difficult subject, sharpened sometimes by a lack of knowledge about what the legislation says and what this means in practice. But fairness in the workplace isnt a 'nice to have', it's the law.

Acas regularly develops advice and support to improve organisational performance and quality of working life on a range of issues which impact on people's lives. We have today published new Equality and discrimination guidance to help employers and employees to understand the basics; prevent discrimination and support equality; and provide advice what to do if it happens. We are also developing new good practice guidance on all equality characteristics with practical examples to help the manager get this issue right; and help the individual know their rights.

But knowledge of the Equality Act 2010 is only half the story. To help front line managers deal confidently with equality matters, the organisation should seek to create the right workplace environment by applying four principles to ensure equality is working for you.

The first principle is to have a clear policy that embeds equality in the business, sets out your organisation's commitment to equality, and illustrates your values. This policy needs to be visibly supported from the top: by the Chief Executive and Board in big organisations, or the boss or business owner in smaller ones. Another good idea is to appoint a senior manager as an advocate or champion of equality to ensure all organisational decisions are looked at through the lens of equality. This has the added business benefit of attracting a wider range of quality job seekers and employees.

The second principle is to embed equality by explaining to staff why it is important to treat people fairly and lawfully to avoid discrimination and make sure they understand their individual responsibilities especially in terms of their behaviours. Many organisations find this an ideal opportunity to refresh their organisational values and align these with the equality policy.

The third principle is to set achievable equality aims in the business. This can really help the business deliver on equality because, as said by the management guru Peter Drucker, "what gets measured gets done!"

Finally the last principle (going hand in hand with the third) is to monitor progress towards these aims, and report honestly and transparently about your successes and challenges.

There is increasing evidence to suggest that a diverse workforce offers business the greatest opportunity for success. Organisations should consider reviewing staff and where they sit in the structure. If there appears to be under representation, such as women or BME people in senior positions, then the business needs to ask why this is and what reasonable and proportionate equality aims can be set to encourage progression by these groups. Our new guidance will help explain how you go about achieving this through positive action and our countrywide network of advisors are on hand to offer practical tailored advice.

7 Comments

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  • Posted by Acas Admin  |  30 December 2016, 4:51PM

    Hi Kerryn, we have information on TUPE here acas.org.uk/tupe. But if you need more specific advice, try our Helpline: acas.org.uk/helpline 

  • Posted by Kerryn  |  21 December 2016, 1:32PM

    I have just learnt that after 6 years of working together my male colleague is earning £3,000 a year more than me. We work together in the same office doing exactly the same job, I presumed for the same money. I have spoken to my employers who have tried to justify it by saying he was TUPE'd over, but they have made no effort to harmonise our pay over the 6 years and every year our payrises mean that the pay gap continues to get larger and larger... Do I have any rights or is TUPE equal pay protection all one way for the incoming staff?

  • Posted by Jarosz  |  26 November 2015, 10:57AM

    Funding cutbacks and the loss of expert staff through attrition at global entities such as the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) are also problems with ethical dimensions, as uncertainty over who should be responsible for coordinating an effective response to the epidemic persists.

  • Posted by AdamBauer  |  8 November 2015, 12:10PM

    @DavidNolton, 

    Funny you should say that, I also work in your industry, you can chceck it at http://www.odpadypoznan.pl and I strongly disagree. If you addressing this area in a general of course. In this business you mostly hire men. I don't know if this is really preffered but I do know that when we were hiring 90% of candidates with expirience were men.

  • Posted by DavidNolton  |  14 August 2015, 10:37AM

    Mary, I think the measurement of equality can be based on elementary indice, like number of men and women on manager positions or number of male and female employees. The outcome is what is important, you will never know what people think deep inside. As a manager or director you can only rely on facts, not on some soft qualities, not possible to measure. I work in a very specific industry and even here the equality problem is taken really seriously.

  • Posted by Gill Dix, Head of Acas Strategy Unit  |  13 August 2015, 3:13PM

    As Steve's blog points out, the secret in handling equality issues in the best way involves ensuring compliance with the law but also having policies that suit the culture and business needs of the workplace. And behind all this lies the important issue of how people behave and interpret 'what's fair'. Yesterday’s #AskAcas Q&A on equality, discrimination and diversity gives a good feel for the queries out there on what the law covers, as well as the importance of involving employees in designing and embedding policies. https://storify.com/acasorguk/askacas-13-equality-and-discrimination-work

  • Posted by Mary Douglas  |  13 August 2015, 11:05AM

    You made some interesting and important points here, Steve. I noticed the equality problem in my organisation http://www.timeo.co.uk/argos-opening-times/argos-london-189-197-old-street/ and I am the one who should fight this, so this topic is very close to my heart right now. I am not sure what do you mean by "setting achievable equality aims". How to do it? Equality is so soft, uncatchable thing, I'm not sure how to measure it. I would rather say that it is a state of mind - how can I set some goals here? I would appreciate feedback from you, as you really got my interest.

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