Some confusion can arise when businesses are implementing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policies, also known as an EDI Policy or a Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (GEDI) Policy. The terms equality, diversity and inclusion while overlapping mean very different things.
Equality compliance is the absolute basic for an employer. It is the superfluous statement that says ‘we are an equal opportunities employer’. Equality is the same pay for the same work. It is the absence of discrimination. It is making reasonable accommodation. Equality is set out in legislation. It is unlawful to treat an employee or a potential employee less favourably due to their:
- Race, nationality or ethnicity
- Religion or absence thereof
- Civil Status
- Family Status
- Membership of the Traveller Community
In the event an individual is shown less favourable treatment based on one of the nine protected characteristics in recruitment, in conditions of employment, or in promotional opportunities, the employer is likely to find themselves facing Workplace Relations Commission proceedings.
Diversity planning builds on the foundation of having an equal workplace. It is the recognition that individuals with certain capacities are underrepresented in the workplace, or in senior roles, and the identification of steps or policies to attract, retain and/or promote individuals with protected characteristics with the objective of ensuring a wide variety of characteristics at all levels in a business.
Such steps may be very simple such as choosing where to place job advertisements, and asking does this reach all sectors of the community. It may involve more complicated research on the issues preventing certain groups of people from choosing to work for the business or remaining in the business. When the challenges are identified, diversity initiatives can solve them.
Diversity initiatives may include providing different working arrangements and supports to different workers. Those with certain disabilities may prefer greater remote working. Some with caring responsibilities might appreciate flexible hours.
Diversity also looks further than the protected characteristics. It may include initiatives to break down barriers to entry for those of differing socio-economic backgrounds.
Inclusion is the final piece in the puzzle. Inclusion initiatives seek to ensure that all individuals are given a working environment where they can thrive. It involves using empathy to understand the barriers faced by people with certain characteristics. Inclusion recognises that an accommodation provided to a disabled worker may leave them less visible in the workplace and thus less eligible for promotion; it might involve taking steps to measure the outputs of all workers in a different manner.
The above is provided for information purposes and is not intended as legal advice. We, at Fitzsimons Redmond LLP, would be happy to talk to you about preparing for developing an EDI strategy. Please contact us on 01-676 3257.
By Lisa Quinn O’Flaherty
Partner at Fitzsimons Redmond LLP