Workplace discrimination may be everywhere, but not everybody can see it

Despite workplace discrimination being all around us, the ADP Research Institute has uncovered some surprising realities

Nearly three-quarters of UK employees say they never feel discriminated against at work, says the ADP Research Institute. This is despite an increase in incidences of workplace discrimination in recent years, with several high-profile cases prompting a greater awareness of the prejudices many employees face in their everyday lives.

New research by ADP looked at the facts and perceptions of workplace discrimination and found that overall, ageism is the most common form of perceived discrimination in the workplace. A fifth of young people are most likely to be affected by discrimination based on their age, while only 6% of 45+-year-olds will face ageism in the workplace. This may be due to an understanding that senior roles are often most likely held by employees with more work experience gained over time.

Gender and appearance, including race, are the next most reported forms of discrimination, despite still only impacting 7% of all respondents. As both the gender pay gap and ethnicity pay gap have still not been eradicated, it comes as a surprise that less than ten per cent of all respondents report that they had faced discrimination based on their gender and appearance.

As ADP’s findings comes as a surprise, Jeff Phipps, Managing Director at ADP explains why discrimination may not be reported as frequently as it happens: “Workplace discrimination has been making headlines in recent years, whether its ageism, religion, disability or racial discrimination. Yet, as shown in the research findings, most employees find it hard to raise claims or are unaware of what to do.”

Part of this issue is not only are employees reluctant to voice that they have experienced workplace discrimination, but some also do not understand what it is when they encounter it. Employers must do more to raise widespread awareness of subtle forms of workplace discrimination while educating themselves in the process.

Phipps: “Employers must stay alert to this issue, take a proactive approach to tackle potential prejudice and unconscious bias and ensure equal treatment for all. A lack of adequate protocol or process in some organisations could undermine efforts to increase inclusivity and create a culture of openness.

“It is also important to encourage those employees who don’t experience discrimination to support those who do, as discrimination in the workplace can be extremely alienating.

The coronavirus pandemic must not stop the fight against workplace discrimination, Phipps  continues: “This is especially important as mass moves to remote working in the wake of COVID-19 change workforce dynamics. Policies and procedures may need to adapt accordingly to take account of how workers are being managed and supported in this new and uncertain environment.”

“Post-pandemic, employers  have to make a lot of difficult decisions very rapidly around strategy, operations and jobs, but they can’t afford to make mistakes that could open them up to calls of discrimination. How businesses are seen to treat workers is more important in tough times than ever for worker morale, but also brand reputation too.”
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