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Diversity in the workplace

Diversity in the workplace

We live in an increasingly diverse society, and many businesses recognise the positive effects that diversity has. But diversity in the workplace can also be tricky for employers to navigate.

A recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) involving banning religious and other symbols of belief in the workplace is being seen by many as a blow to workplace inclusion and could be seen to open a ‘backdoor’ to prejudice.

The ECJ recently found that a policy of neutrality banning employees from wearing any visible political, religious, or philosophical symbols in the workplace may be justified where:

•  There is a genuine need for such a policy, considering the rights and wishes of customers and service users.

•  The policy is both appropriate and necessary to achieve aims.

•  The policy is applied consistently to all visible signs of political, philosophical, or religious beliefs.

Whilst this is not legally binding in the UK, the UK courts and tribunals may have to regard it when hearing discrimination claims in the future.

All businesses should have a diversity and inclusion policy in place, which includes a statement outlining its commitment to diversity and which also makes it clear that discrimination of any type will not be tolerated.  This should also include the procedures that will be followed where there is alleged discrimination taking place, including what action will be taken against any employees who are found to have breached them.

Businesses may also want to consider anti-discrimination and unconscious bias training, to help individuals and those who are involved with management and recruitment to understand and reduce the impact bias has on behaviour.  Better workplace training can also help businesses to prevent and defend future employment claims.

Many larger businesses are creating support networks which allow employees with a common identity to come together and support each other’s professional development.  These networks can also help employers gain a better understanding of some of the issues particular groups might face.

If you are looking for ways to ensure you have a more diverse and inclusive workplace, get in touch.

Amanda Finn is a partner at Gullands Solicitors and can be contacted at