Diversity in the workplace: why it is important and what the perils are of not diversifying?

16th February 2017 Employment

I recently chaired a panel discussion concerning diversity and it proved to be a lively discussion. Diversity in the workplace now provides more than just a set phrase to act as a buzzword when marketing your company. In the current market, diversity can hold the key to both innovating your business and growing your client base. Diverse workplaces are composed of employees with varying characteristics including their religious and/or political beliefs, gender, ethnicity, education and socioeconomic backgrounds.

There are many advantages which can be gained from having a diverse workforce. For example, a company with a diverse range of employees would be better placed to understand the needs of a wider range of customers. They would therefore be in a more advantageous position to relate to and interact with a broader client base. This could even result in a company being able to operate in the international community if, say, they have employees who can speak various languages. Ultimately, the more clients a company has, the more it can expand and the more profitable it will be, therefore demonstrating that workplace diversity has obvious advantages.

Another benefit of having diversity within your company is that there will be more opportunity for innovation. People from varying backgrounds will be likely to, by their very nature, think in different ways or be able to suggest different methods to, for example, solve issues a company may face. This can only benefit the workplace as the company will be able to draw on people's different life experiences and make the business fundamentally more effective.

In an environment where the labour market is increasingly competitive, a diverse workplace would be in a better position to recruit and retain staff. This point could present one of the perils of not having a diverse workforce. Potential employees could be deterred from applying for positions within a company if that company, when compared to another, does not have a diverse workforce. This could therefore lead to the company losing an opportunity to have a member of staff who could massively benefit them.

Diversity could also actually help improve the performance of employees. Employees would be more likely to feel comfortable in a workplace where an inclusive attitude is fostered. This would promote increased morale which would improve work ethic and consequently make the company more successful.

An obvious pitfall of not having a diverse workforce is that the company could leave itself open to potential claims of discrimination. It is against the law to treat someone less favourably than someone else because of a personal characteristic, e.g. religion, gender or age. Discrimination can include:

  • not hiring someone
  • selecting a particular person for redundancy
  • paying someone less than another worker without good reason.

An employer can discriminate against someone even if they do not intend to. For example, you can discriminate indirectly by offering working conditions or rules that disadvantage one group of people more than another.

Ultimately, by promoting diversity across any workplace, this can only benefit the company, as talented employees can be properly recognised, no matter what their background may be. A more adaptable, innovative workforce will therefore be able to be established, which will as a result promote an increased client base and more work for the company.

To discuss this blog, or any element of employment law with Jen and our team please do not hesitate to contact us using the form or call us on 0345-872-6666.

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Paul Chamberlain is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchesterin our Employment department

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