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Employment essentials explained: Diversity & inclusion

As many of us continue to work from home and/or have opportunities for travel and meeting up restricted, we are continuing to run our essential webinar series for employers to ensure that our clients and contacts remain up to date and equipped to deal with all eventualities!

Our latest seminar focused on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The key takeaway points are set out below:

How has the pandemic changed things in the workplace for women, those with disabilities, those from different age groups and those from ethnic minorities?

  • People working in lower paid, contact-intensive sectors such as accommodation, food services, retail, arts, entertainment and recreation have undoubtedly borne the brunt of the lockdown restrictions. These sectors are dominated by women, young people and those from lower income and ethnic minority households
  • The statistics supporting this are stark:
    • PwC has reported that between February and May 2020 working mothers in the UK experienced a 22% fall in paid work hours per day compared to a 16% fall for fathers
    • Data from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme shows that between July and October 2020 a total of 15.3 million jobs were furloughed in the UK. Out of those for which gender was known, 52% were women’s jobs despite women only making up 48% of the workforce
    • PWC’s Women in Work Index has also reported progress for 9 years in a row in relation to gender parity in the workplace. However, they have said they expect to see this trend revert to 2017 levels as a result of the pandemic
    • COVID-19 has also exacerbated the already unequal burden of unpaid care and domestic work carried out by women. Women on average spend 6 more hours than men on unpaid childcare every week. During the pandemic this burden has increased to 7.7 more hours per week, impacting on women’s ability to work longer hours or even stay in employment
    • The Office for National Statistics reported that between July to November 2020, 21.1 per thousand disabled employees were made redundant as compared with 13.0 per thousand employees who are not disabled
    • A report from Leonard Cheshire (a UK disability charity) in June 2020 surveyed 1171 working age disabled people and 502 employers. It found that 7 in 10 disabled people (71%) in employment in March 2020 were affected by the pandemic, either through loss of income, being put on furlough, or being made redundant – this increased to 84% for those aged 18-24
    • In the first 3 months of lockdown 50% of eligible 16–24-year-olds were placed on furlough compared with 1 in 4 45-year-olds
    • The youth unemployment rate also rose to 13.1% compared with 4.1% for the whole UK - 7% of 18–24-year-olds were made redundant because of the pandemic compared with 4% of 50–65-year-olds
    • In the year to September 2020 employment rates for those from a Black, Asian and minority-ethnic background reduced to 5.3% compared with a 0.2% decrease for white workers
    • About ¼ of Black and minority-ethnic workers have lost jobs in the accommodation and food sectors
    • The unemployment rate for Black, Asian and minority-ethnic people has already reached 8.5% (January 2021) much higher than the overall average of 4.9% and the 4.5% average for white workers

Practical steps employers can take to support these affected groups

  • Offering flexibility to all employees where possible – not just home working, but also compressed hours, job sharing, 9-day fortnights etc
  • Mentoring, networking and sponsorship opportunities to support individuals in developing their careers
  • Offering work experience, training and apprenticeships to open access to jobs
  • Creating opportunities for open conversations, from employee networks and forums to Q&A sessions with senior leaders or reverse mentoring programmes

What are the common stumbling blocks to employers handing diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

  • Lack of acceptance that there is an issue / engagement from senior leaders
  • Lack of resource within the organisation to focus on diversity & inclusion
  • Being unsure of where to start and what to prioritise
  • Workplace culture generally
  • Lack of reliable data to understand where the organisation is and what is lacking

What positive steps can employers take to progress diversity and inclusion at work?

  • Regular (at least annual) training on equal opportunities and diversity & inclusion within the organisation
  • Transparency over the reason for data collection and what it will be used for to increase engagement
  • Employee surveys to understand issues, employee’s experience of inclusivity within the organisation and what changes they would like to see
  • Setting performance objectives for employees to sponsor or participate in diversity and inclusion initiatives and/or demonstrate appropriate inclusive behaviours
  • Think about the diversity of teams and invite others from a diverse cross-section to share their ideas and experiences
  • Collating data and voluntarily reporting on ethnicity pay gaps alongside gender pay gaps to identify where to focus on improvements
  • Review recruitment practices and consider blind CVs as well as the requirements for the role and whether they are inherently exclusive of some groups – if so, can those requirements be met in a different way?
  • Consider alternative paths to access roles within the organisation, e.g. not just a traditional degree route

Poll results

Poll results


This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022.

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