Despite a growing environment of awareness around workplace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), new findings that seem unbelievable but are true, reveal that over half (56%) of UK employers do not take a zero-tolerance approach to workplace discrimination.
This includes failing to discipline or dismiss offending managers, according to a new study commissioned by Winckworth Sherwood, a UK law firm.
Efforts to strongly condemn discriminatory practices are made ineffective by the significant numbers of employers that have no form of diversity, equity and inclusion strategies in place, (39%) while 20% aren’t taking any action to improve the status quo.
The findings also include perspectives from employees, which reveal low confidence in their employer’s ability to create an equitable environment.
Almost half (47%) of those surveyed believe their employer could do more to improve DEI, while one in four believe their organisation is affected by some form of bias.
The findings also uncovered low trust between employees and managers, which is unsurprising considering their opinions about low equity in their organisations. Two out of nine employees believe their managers aren’t equipped to manage a multigenerational workforce, with the main prejudice in the workplace believed to be age-based, particularly against workers over 55.
In terms of what employees want, flexible working is the most requested improvement, according to the study. Despite all the talk of the new normal and changing working practices such as hybrid working and the four-day week, less than half (47%) of the companies surveyed currently offer flexible working.
The risk of an ‘invisibility bias’ affecting those who work from home more often threatens to have a disproportionate impact on women as caregivers and disabled people.
For example, among HR professionals, more than a third (38%) believe that people who work at home all or most of the time are at a disadvantage compared to those who work in the office all or most of the time. To avoid this, employers need to be aware and take proactive steps to ensure parity of treatment between home and office workers, including equal access to promotions and pay rises.
The lack of absolutist stance on discrimination or actively promoting DEI among employers is concerning, not only as it can hamper attracting and retaining key talent, but it can also lead to potential legal claims deriving from bullying, harassment or discrimination. With investors being increasingly environmental, social and governance (ESG) focused, employers that ignore discrimination and DEI policies, will stand to lose out.
Louise Lawrence, a partner in Winckworth Sherwood’s employment team and the report’s co-author admitted that: “For all the encouraging strides employers have made in recent years to tackle discrimination and promote greater inclusion, diversity and equality in the workplace, there is clearly more to be done.”
Harriet Calver, also co-author of the report and senior partner at Winckworth Sherwood said: “We have seen employee attitudes to work and work-life balance change dramatically over the past two years and our report makes it clear that a large proportion of employers need to adapt to this change.”
In this article, you learned that:
- Over half (56%) of UK employers do not take a zero-tolerance approach to workplace discrimination.
- Almost half (47%) of those surveyed believe their employer could do more to improve DEI, while one in four believe their organisation is affected by some form of bias.
- A significant 39% of employers still do not have a DEI strategy.