Why Equality and Diversity is important in the Workplace

Published: 11 May 2021 to 31 December 2098

As we continue to celebrate NHS Employer’s Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Week (#EQW2021) each day this week we are examining an aspect of Equality and Diversity in the workplace and discuss how it is helping us to make our Trust a better and more inclusive place to work. In fact, as the largest employer in Europe, with over 1.3 million staff, the NHS has a responsibility to remain at the forefront of the inclusion and fairness agenda for patients and staff.

First and foremost, equality, diversity and inclusion is about people and not a ‘tick box’ exercise to satisfy government or employer statistics or legislation.

Perhaps the most common misconception reported by equality and diversity trainers is that Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) is often said - behind closed doors of course - to be ‘just political correctness’ or sometimes ‘political correctness gone mad’.

Political correctness can be defined as ‘the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against’.

It is often the term ‘forms of expression’ from definitions such as this which some interpret to mean jokes or work place banter. However, where someone is offended by your words it is not open to your interpretation it is open to theirs, as such if your opinion, jokes or workplace banter offends people then it is time keep such options, jokes or work place banter out of the workplace.

To those who question whether equality and diversity is merely ‘political correctness gone mad’ I would ask the question whether it is acceptable for women to be paid less than men for the same job, for part time staff or shift workers to have less opportunities in training, for the LGBTQ+ community to face harassment at work or for those from a minority to be excluded from jobs because of a different place of birth?  

Sometimes, EDI needs to focus the minds of those not affected to understand how a lack of EDI impacts those who are affected and demonstrate how they can help bring about fairness to their workplace.

While tick boxes are one of the ways of collecting data in NHS organisations, equality and diversity is about translating that data into information to inform change. What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done. Equality and diversity needs to be measured and monitored – in the same way that finances are monitored through budgets – so that issues are identified and action can be taken.

The NHS measure equality through a number of channels including the NHS Equality Delivery System (EDS2) which is a framework to help organisations use their equality data – alongside qualitative data gathered through engagement with patients and communities – to effectively measure their performance.

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